Prime Time is Real Time, Unless You are NBC

The London Olympics are the talk of the sports world, if not the entire world. A glance at trending topics according to shows Olympic-related hashtags are prevalent around the globe. Social media and mobile technology combine to make the 2012 Summer Olympics a new consumption experience as we can follow events in real time. Unfortunately, we cannot watch some of them in real time. In the U.S., marquee events are saved by NBC for broadcast in prime time. If you do not want to know the outcome of a medal race in swimming or gymnastics competition, stay off social media during the day. Also, it may be a good idea to avoid watching NBC promos for the Today Show as they could leak the outcome of the event you are about to watch.

We have become accustomed to on-demand access to information and entertainment. NBC seems to be stuck in the TV-dominated media generation, building its broadcasts around prime time hours. Although it should be noted that there is quite a bit of live event programming broadcast each day on NBC-owned channels, airing prime time events that have already occurred just does not fit today's media culture. However, there is a good explanation for NBC's approach to broadcasting major events on a delayed basis in prime time: We are not the customer, so it does not matter what we want.

The customers that NBC must satisfy are its advertisers and by extension, Olympic sponsors. Corporate partners want to achieve the greatest reach possible via TV. The time frame in which that is most likely to happen is prime time. The largest number of eyeballs will be watching during that time regardless of whether events or live or recorded. The Olympics are essentially a two-week mini-series for NBC. Its aim is to maximize viewership of the mini-series. Given the realities of the 9-5 American work life, prime time is when the most people will be watching... even if they are watching what amounts to a re-run.

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