Millennials to NBC Executives: No One To Blame But Yourselves

By: Jessica Scott | 25 Aug 2016
TV Washes Up On Beach of Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro

What network television and content providers can learn from the Olympics about creating content to appeal to their audiences.

My prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come, and they didn’t know it.

In the news this week, NBC reported a 25% loss of viewership for the 2016 Rio Olympics versus the London games four years ago. But what is most surprising is that an NBC executive blamed Millennials for the falling ratings. Rolling Stone was quick to point out the absurdity of this claim in a great takedown. Instead of complaining about the results, NBC could have taken a more proactive approach to prevent this. What could have NBC done instead to reach Millennials? Turns out there are several tips marketers and content providers can take away from this.

What NBC and Other Content Providers Can Learn

  1. Learn About Your Target’s Consumption Habits

    In the report, NBC executives were trying to capture the most number of views for users between 18-45. This lands squarely in the range of Millennials, viewers born between 1982 and 2004. Millennials, particularly younger, independent Millennials, are relying on digital subscription services (a la, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video) for their entertainment more than ever. We’re seeing year over year increase of media consumption via web or mobile apps. This is at the expense of television viewership, which is falling every year.

  2. Know Which Media Channels Your Target Uses

    data-digest_12.3.15Speaking of app consumption, now a full 24% of adults no longer have cable service. The idea of “cord-cutting,” or cutting your cable subscription service in lieu of internet streaming, is becoming ever more popular. Networks now have to figure out creative ways to get their content to these demographic. We’re seeing the rise of on-demand content apps like SlingTV and PlayStation Vue.

  3. Be Cognizant How Your Content Comes Across

    Just as important as the content is how you package or deliver it. NBC ran into plenty of problems with how they covered the Olympics. This ties into your overall messaging strategy. NBC could do a better job crafting their messaging to Millennials. They crave authenticity and trustworthiness. We can see that Millennials reject NBC’s trite storytelling and saturation of advertising.

  4. Test The User Experience Of Your Content

    Make sure your delivery of content it works. Users have complained of many issues using the NBCSports app during the Olympics. From dropping service, screens freezing, and the app crashing, watching the games via app was a frustrating experience. Even some of the interface features were an annoyance, including interruptive ads, popups and broken menu bars.

  5. Make Sure You Have Instantaneous Delivery of Content

    Pew Research on How Users Get Their News 2016Lastly, in a world where news happens in an instant, viewers want to be kept up to date when events occur as they simultaneously happen. That brings me to the much despised tape delay. In years past, a tape delay made sense: networks trying to capture the primetime slot of viewership. But with the reach of social media, it is largely unnecessary. Why would a Millennial wait until 7pm to tune into results, when they can see a tweet, a post, or a snapchat? That’s why on social the Olympics made a killing with over 187 million tweets and 1.5 billion post interactions. Be aware that your viewers are live, and you should be too.

The Takeaways for Marketers and Content Providers

After this, NBC leadership should take time for some introspection if they want to reach the Millennial market. Be diligent about your market research. Only four years ago, you could put content out there and it would be consumed. Now content marketers need to be careful, creative and custom if they want to reach their intended audience. The internet culture has made people pickier, more skeptical, and above all, empowered about their choices of content.

Discovering the right content to reach your audience is crucial for a successful marketing campaign. You need a creative strategist and user experience researcher who can craft the right visual message for you. Contact me today for a free consultation on how to better your customer experience.

Thumbnail courtesy Antonio Scorza /