Despite a one-year postponement, no fans, and a country in a state of emergency, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, played in 2021 were not a complete failure. This column is not from a curmudgeon who is down on all things shot put, synchronized swimming, and softball.
Still, NBC needs to rethink its desire to be the network of the Olympics. Games that are 12+ hours difference in time zone, simply will not rate highly again.
Ratings were down for nearly every single night of competition in 2021, and it is easy to see that both linear television vs. streaming played a role, but not the major role. The 13-hour time difference was the main reason.
NBC couldn’t have seen it coming. Back in 2011, the network agreed to a $4.38 billion contract with the International Olympic Committee to broadcast the Olympics through these 2020 games.
In 2011, Apple had just released the iPhone 4, and while scores and results were readily available, social media was in its relative infancy, and the value of a tape-delayed broadcast still meant something to NBC and its advertisers.
Then. In 2014, NBC then did an unprecedented extension to air the Olympics through 2032. It’s still the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history.
In 2021, the NBC Sports app offered all events in a live and on-demand format. That took some of the luster away from the prime-time broadcast. If the USA Basketball men’s or women’s team won or lost a game, there was an overwhelming amount of coverage so easily accessible, the need to watch was compromised.
“I think you’d have to evaluate it on different levels,” said Tom Richardson, SVP of Strategy at Mercury Intermedia & digital media professor in Columbia University’s Sports Management Graduate Program. “Based on the numbers associated with NBC. Advertisers are still not comparing linear and digital streaming numbers. NBC has so many make goods to satisfy advertisers who are dissatisfied with the ratings.”
Through Wednesday, the Tokyo Games have averaged just under 16.3 million viewers. On some nights, it was under 12 million viewers. Comparatively, the 2000 Sydney Games averaged 21.5 million viewers. The 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang averaged 19.8 million, and that was considered an all-time low. Tokyo will dubiously eclipse that.
The time zone presents a combination of really serious problems for advertisers. Only a fraction of them will watch them live in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning. The trend in online viewing is that people will learn the results from their phones, social media, or perhaps television. (NBC has not been shy in showing results on the Today Show, Nightly News, etc.)
The other problem is that advertisers pay the most money for the prime-time broadcast. Airing major moments featuring Simone Biles or Sunisia Lee 13 hours after the event results were broadcast elsewhere gives a young viewer nothing to anticipate.
“The time zone is an issue,” said Richardson. “TV audiences aren’t interested in lengthy commercial breaks. Streaming has shown that 5-7 second ads hit a target. And if it’s tape-delayed, DVR users usually fast forward the commercials.”
Paris in 2024 will not present the same problems. Much like the Premier League viewership in the US, the big events will be in the middle of the day. Viewership should be up, even though some events will not be live in prime-time.
Los Angeles in 2028 is the prize that NBC spent the money for. Prime-time live will be a treasure trove on both linear and digital platforms.
Brisbane, Australia is just as bad as Tokyo. Ratings will be worse than this year.
Here’s the catch – Los Angeles and Brisbane were not decided when NBC bid for the extension. NBC at the time was more interested in making sure Disney (ABC/ESPN) did not take their stranglehold on Olympic broadcast rights.
NBC has aired every Summer and Winter Olympics since Sydney in 2000. The last non-NBC network to air the Olympics was CBS in Nagano 1998. Then, we barely had the internet to spoil the hockey results.
There was plenty of evidence to show the time zone greatly impacted viewership. According to Sports Business Journal, when gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the competition on Wednesday. July 25th, the Thursday, July 26th prime-time tape delay broadcast was down 55% from the same night of the Olympics from Rio 2016. Viewers had 13 hours to absorb the news and make their choices. With so many streaming apps and opportunities to watch virtually anything old or new, the decision was not the Olympics.
NBC is locked into the Olympics through 2032. Anything with a great than 8-hour time difference in the future, should not be something they bid big money on and upset their advertisers.
Oh, and beyond 2032, will we have the flying car yet?
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.