Don’t feel too bad, even NBC can’t get #CX right for something as obvious as the Olympics

People laugh in my company when I make sports analogies.  Sure I play into it, but watching sports to me is a pretty low priority.  I joke that I’ll watch pros at their chosen craft when they come watch me.  And to date, that hasn’t happened.

One doesn’t need to be a sports enthusiast to understand the experience sports brings with it, largely has to do with being part of something in real time; in the stadium, watching on TV or some device, being in a social setting – not a lot of people plan a Monday Night Football viewing, on Tuesday nights.

Yet this installment of the Olympics has brought with it a round of decisions by NBC that directly and detrimentally has affected their brand – for those of us enthralled with CX Strategy, some of these decisions are mystifying.

To make this more interesting I’ll share some of these decisions through a story. My wife and I are fans of Usain Bolt, fastest man alive.  We haven’t purposefully watched a single thing in the Olympics, but made it a point to watch his semi-final and (at the time assumed) finals run. So, Sunday morning we look up the schedule which was the semi’s at 5PM and finals at 6.25PM (the times become important).

My wife and I also have been TV free for almost 10 years, though avid internet  users, rooted largely from my profession as a digital strategist and knowing that what we (i.e. society) have  been experiencing, was in fact coming. So, for this one event, we knew, we would have to go somewhere to watch it.

But why? Why would we have to go somewhere and watch it? Because in order to use the NBC Sports app or Olympic website, we had to authenticate against our ISP provider who is also (you guessed it) the TV provider.  So, (and the logic here is truly amazing) in order to watch NBC on a device, I have to pay for cable (which I won’t), to use their apps (which I can’t) where I would see their commercials (which I don’t).  Sure, its’ tied to revenue (and I am sure regulation), but we can all see the irony of this set up.

So Sunday we decided to go out and watch it elsewhere.  We both had big Monday’s planned, so no bar – where else can we go?  We went and got pedicures.  I’ll give you a moment to chuckle. But we made an appointment and they said they were keeping the Olympics on and hey, who doesn’t like to have smooth feet.

But we live in California, so the cable broadcast was delayed, so we were watching sports which had already been completed.  Had been reported.  Had been inappropriately alerted to us from CNN (see below, and a subject for another post – which will be short…)

What we couldn’t watch, was real time on channel 4, bravo, msnbc etc..

So we scrambled.  Downloaded the app, figured out we got 30 free minutes, which was more than enough for a 10 second race.  But then the finals were 90 minutes away.  So we sprinted home, downloaded it on a different device…another 30 minute grace period.  Then they didn’t show the awards ceremony, so got another device, downloaded it again, another 30 minute window.

Was this the experience NBC wanted us to have?  I don’t think so. The statistics (some included below, and supported by 2012 London numbers) clearly tell the story that immediate and real time experience is what the consumers want. But on the traditional medium of TV, this isn’t what NBC will give us.  And for those customers who enjoy their content through other streaming services rather than cable, we are told pretty clearly, you are worth less to us.  We don’t care about your experience with our brand – regardless of the commercials you are forced to sit through, on any device, through any partner channel, we still can’t get away from broadcast.

More than anything it’s disappointing.  Though half expected.  As a customer in a west timezone, who subscribes to their content on everything other than a cable box, I had to cobble my own experience together.  I would have even paid for it, which was another missed opp.

And though customer research and strategy work could have uncovered that having live, synchronized content across channel and device would lend to a better and more consistent CX, it seems pretty common sense to me.


*More than 216 Million Rio Olympics Streaming Minutes through Saturday – Up 280% From ‘12

*Saturday was the best day ever for NBC Olympics digital platforms, with 155 million live streaming minutes (up 263% from the comparable day in 2012) and 11.3 million unique users (up 7%).

**In 2012 there were 15 million downloads of the official London Olympics app, and 60 percent of visits to the London 2012 website came from mobile devices.