The criticism of NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics reached a fever pitch Sunday after Americans were denied access to the live telecast of Usain Bolt scorching his opponents to win gold in the men’s 100m final.
As it has done the entire Olympics, NBC chose to hold off broadcasting the immensely popular event until their prime time recap, a move that left millions of Americans outraged.
Fans who tuned into NBC expecting to see the race live at 4:50 were treated to non-medal rounds of equestrian and women’s volleyball. Many of those fans took to social media to voice their displeasure with the coverage, using the hashtag #NBCfails.
“Thank you NBC for showing Bolt winning the 100 meter finals instead of woman volleyball and horses. Wait you didn’t,” tweeted one disgruntled viewer.
A global TV audience estimated around two billion people watched the 25-year-old Jamaican defend his title as the world’s fastest man with an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds.
According to BBC figures, an audience of 20 million people watched Bolt win the gold medal in the race on the BBC, 3 million more than the previous biggest draw, Mo Farah’s gold in the 10,000 meter on Saturday night.
Americans have been upset with NBC’s decision to keep marquee events off the air until they can be shown in primetime for the sake of advertising revenue and a larger TV audience.
For fans this means attempting to avoid finding out the results of the events before they are shown on TV, a seemingly impossible task when you consider the presence of the internet and social media. For example, gymnastics fans had to purposely avoid friends, gossip and social media if they wanted to experience the thrill of watching Gabby Douglas win the all-around gold medal without knowing the results beforehand.
The decision to tape delay a race dubbed the hottest ticket in London outraged track fans across the country. “Would have been nice if NBC chose to broadcast it live. NBC really values its audience,” one fan tweeted.
The scrutiny NBC faced has intensified after its airing of an ad featuring a monkey performing gymnastics right after Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to win Olympic gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around competition. NBC said naturally there was no racist intent in the timing of the commercial.