Big Business got to be big business because by and large, the people who were responsible for running the corporations made very smart decisions. Along with a lot of hard work, a little luck, a little foresight, and maybe even a bribe or two can put you at the top of the Dow Jones in no time. But these icons of capitalism aren’t quite perfect, and at times, the suits who make the decisions can lay a really huge egg that can bring bad publicity and financial hardship. Think of the biggest marketing fails in business history…. the Edsel, New Coke, the Betamax, my CafePress Shop.
Here’s one you may have forgotten about that hit a major television network in the pocket for over $50,000,000, as well as in the pride for having to own up to one of the most poorly thought out projects in business history. Forward to the 3:15 mark to see this one minute commercial….
Yes, the Olympics Triplecast. A novel idea in utilizing the booming pay-per-view market that was poorly thought out and horrifically executed.
You know something wasn’t a very good idea when half of its page on Wikipedia is devoted to the reasons it fell flat on its ass. Anyway, here’s a little background on NBC’s infamous turkey, The Olympics Triplecast….
NBC way outbid its network competitors (it’s speculated by as much as $100,000,000) for the rights to cover the 1992 Summer Olympics from Barcelona, which in turn helped jack up the price they’d have to pay for each ensuing Olympic Games. To make a baseball reference that will go over the heads of 99% of my readership, that makes the International Olympic Committee Scott Boras, and NBC Dave Dombrowski. Anyway, to help recoup some of the excess cost, the “jeniuses” at NBC came up with the brilliant idea to create a pay-per-view cable package that Olympics fans just couldn’t refuse.
So they created three special pay-per-view channels, creatively named the Red, White, and Blue channels. Each channel would show live, unedited coverage of Olympics events that would either not be seen during the main NBC feed, or would be seen on tape delay. These live events would occur
24 12 hours a day, and would be ordered by millions of diehard Olympics fans for the relatively inexpensive price of $170. What a bargain!!!
But viewers did not race to their phones to order the Olympic Triplecast, and if NBC would have paid attention to its own marketing research, they would have known this gimmick was going to be a tough sell on the public. For one thing, while there are many rabid Olympics fans out there in the good ol’ U. S. of A., caring about the Games just isn’t our thing. Our sense of nationalism has never extended to sports, mainly because we’re cocky enough to believe that our team sport athletes are already the best in the world, and we’d rather watch them play in our own leagues rather than in an amateur environment against people we don’t know, and whose names we can’t pronounce.
To add insult to injury, those precious few who did order the Triplecast service found that unedited sports in the raw is approximately five billion times better than the overly produced and dramaticized dreck that was offered on the main NBC feed. It’s just like tuning in a baseball game, and turning the sound down so you don’t have to listen to the annoying announcers. Many Triplecast viewers were choosing to do their Olympics viewing exclusively on the Red, White, and Blue channels… which wound up hurting the ratings of the primary package NBC was offering up for free! D’oh!
And if NBC didn’t predict that this would happen, the more astute people running their affiliate stations sure did, since a handful of those affiliates boycotted the Triplecast ads and refused to air them, not wanting to advertise something that would take viewers and the advertising dollars they bring out of their pocket. In the pre-internet days, this was serious lack of exposure in the markets that these rogue affiliates oversaw.
About the only thing cool about the entire Triplecast package was that remote control they offered with the red, white, and blue buttons on it… which you could only get if you ordered the Gold Package 5 months before the Olympic flame was even lit. Since literally nobody fell for this, these remotes were all sent to a landfill in New Jersey and buried along with Jimmy Hoffa. If there’s a picture of one out there on the internet somewhere, Google Images sure can’t find it…
To add to NBC’s embarrassment, they were mercilessly mocked and lampooned by everyone out there who had a funny bone. Even NBC’s own late night comedy star David Letterman let his bosses have it for such an insane idea.
So today, The Nest would like to give a standing ovation to the head honchos at the National Broadcasting Company, who came up with the worst idea in the history of broadcasting (at least until reality TV came along). We hope the nine figure loss you split with your partner Cablevision was worth it to bring us all of the water polo and discus throwing we could stand if we were able to afford your tri-channel coverage. Thanks for bringing a lasting legacy to the pay-per-view craze of the 90’s that didn’t involve trying to watch scrambled porn…