— The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson has a good rebuttal to all the hubbub about NBC’s tape-delayed coverage of the Olympics. It basically boils down to his subhed: “NBC’s business model isn’t worth blowing up to placate the cable-cutting 2 percent.”
The easiest way to understand why NBC wants to force you to watch the Olympics in prime time is to stop thinking about what audiences want and start thinking about advertisers want. NBC paid about $1.2 billion for the rights to broadcast these games. To make back most of that money, NBC needs to sell extremely expensive commercials. The most valuable commercials aren’t sold online to be viewed on browser tabs on 12-inch display screens. They’re sold on prime time TV. So NBC has a clear interest in funneling our Olympic attention into the prime-time TV slot.
The strategy is working, in its own way. Even with the awkward five-hour delay — too small to swap day for night a la Beijing, but late enough that England is asleep by the time New England finishes dinner — these Olympics are smashing all-time viewing records…
The most outspoken voices clamoring for wild innovation are often the younger, more affluent, more urban, and more tech-savvy (often media) people griping on Twitter, who don’t want to pay for cable, but also want to watch the Olympics and “Game of Thrones” whenever they feel like it. This is all fine and well — if journalists weren’t talented at raising awareness, they wouldn’t be very good at their job — but the impetus to blow up the old TV/cable business model isn’t as strong as we’d like it to be. Between 80 and 90 percent of households have a cable subscription, and the level has been pretty steady for the last ten years. The estimated number of households who qualify as “cable-cutters” is as low as 2 percent.
It’s yet another reason to remember that the people you follow on Twitter are not representative of the broad swath of Americans.