NBC’s come under a lot of criticism during these Olympics. It’s gotten criticism from us (and criticism from plenty of commenters on our posts criticizing the network, it should also be noted). It’s gotten criticism from journalist Guy Adams on Twitter, which it responded to by getting the Twitter account in question temporarily shut down (for which it received even harsher criticism). Why, it’s even been criticized by fake journalists, albeit some incredibly popular ones.
It might lead one to wonder: what’s the stance of NBC itself on all this flak it’s been taking? Is the network taking all the rebukes seriously? Will it internalize the criticism and use it to help improve its coverage going forward? Well, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal caught up with Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports, for a piece posted earlier today, and Lazarus proved beyond a shadow of a doubt exactly what NBC’s attitude is toward viewers who aren’t thrilled with it:
“It’s not everyone’s inalienable right to get whatever they want. We are charged with making smart decisions for our company, for our shareholders and to present the product the way we believe is best.”
Now. One thing to note here: Ourand directly follows that quote with some impressive ratings numbers – NBC’s averaging 35.8 million primetime viewers thus far for the Games, which represents an all-time Olympic viewership high. Looking at a number like that, it’s hard not to think that maybe NBC’s broadcasting choices, no mater how unpopular they might seem, are working rather well for them. It made me wonder if Lazarus didn’t have a point, if maybe I shouldn’t go the other way and say everyone else is making too big a deal out of what he said.
But then, I looked at what Lazarus said again, and… no. The “smart decisions for our company” line? That’s fine. That’s what he should be saying. But the “whatever they want” line? Ugh. Ughhhhhhh. Even if he does have a point (and judging by the ratings numbers, he does), he undermines it by going out of his way to be snide to everyone who dares criticize what NBC is doing. It’s perfectly in keeping with the way they reacted to Adams – contempt for anyone who questions them – and apparently, they’re not even trying to hide it. But what might be worse is that Lazarus also said this:
“NBC has created a formula around story arcs. The American population wants to get to know the athletes and follow their stories.”
You can’t go around basically calling everyone who doesn’t like what you’re doing a bunch of whiny babies, and then say you’re just giving the people what they want. If you’re going to flagrantly disregard the objections of a not-insignificant portion of your audience, then you’d better be prepared to completely own that disregard. If not, you’ll come out either looking two-faced or looking like you’re deliberately messing with your audience just to see how agitated you can make them. No matter which one of those two NBC is doing, it’s really, really good at it.