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Olympic Viewing: NBC takes a different approach online through Twitter

Despite some lingering dissatisfaction with NBC's practice of holding back television coverage of high-profile events for prime time, things are different on Twitter.

NBC's Olympics Twitter feed regularly reports news of events as they happen, as does the network's website. The Twitter feed also sends out alerts to followers shortly before big events are to take place, directing fans to live feeds of the action available online. This stands in contrast to television coverage, where the idea of not spoiling the experience for people who want to be surprised in the evening holds sway.

NBC would have lost credibility with the online community if things were done differently, said Jeff Jarvis, a media critic who writes the Buzzmachine.com blog.

"On the Net, they have to play by the Net's rules," Jarvis said. "On TV, they can play by their rules."

Now is essentially the only time zone on the Web, he said. NBC would have stuck out with other news organizations actively reporting news as it happens. NBC also believes — and research bears this out so far — that the people who actively seek out news of the games on the Web will also watch their broadcasts, and create a buzz that drives up interest among others.

Jarvis said he has occasionally been frustrated to get a tweet announcing a result when it hadn't been made clear when the event was taking place so he could watch it online. But after a few initial problems, he believes the online component of NBC's coverage has run fairly smoothly.

RATINGS: Fueled by basketball and soccer, the NBC Sports cable network had its best ratings of the Olympics so far on Monday. The U.S. men's basketball game against Argentina was seen by 3.3 million people during the day, the Nielsen company said. The women's soccer game between the U.S. and Canada had just under 3 million. In prime-time, the NBC telecast was seen by 26.6 million viewers, virtually identical to the 26.4 million who watched the same night from Beijing four years ago.

SNOOZE-FEST: It's difficult to broadcast blowouts, but during the U.S.-Canada women's basketball game, the camera cut to a shot of Candace Parker and Shelden Williams' daughter snoozing in the stands, and the announcers noted that the third quarter is generally when the U.S. team puts its opponents to sleep. Never a good idea to encourage your audience to doze off or, even worse, give such an obvious invitation to tune out.

DRESSAGE: Mitt Romney couldn't be there, but the NBC Sports Network gave him a chance to see Rafalca, the horse that his wife Ann co-owns, in the dressage competition. Anchor Tim Ryan said Ann Romney was there to watch, but NBC offered only a couple of very brief crowd shots, and it wasn't clear whether Romney was in any of them.

WORLDWIDE: The International Olympic Committee is estimating that almost 900 million people across the world watched at least part of the opening ceremonies for the London Games. It's often difficult to come by worldwide viewership figures; IOC television and marketing director Timo Lumme said about 80 of the 200 national television markets have audited figures and the rest are estimates. Lumme said Usain Bolt's win in the 100-meter final will likely be the most-watched single event of the Olympics worldwide. Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium said that was true in its country — with 6.2 million viewers, the Bolt race outpaced anything on the telecast so far.

UPCOMING: An All-American beach volleyball gold medal match on Wednesday will pit defending champs Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor against the team of April Ross and Jennifer Kesey.

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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