"No single property has a greater positive effect on our company," says Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal television and streaming, in a statement. "Our Olympic presentation has provided unmatched promotion."
Historic amount of coverage leads to confusion
But critics complained that the company didn't do a great job helping viewers sort through the sometimes-overwhelming amount of coverage, especially regarding live events. The streaming service Peacock, in particular, took a lot of barbs for a confusing design and coverage of men's basketball that was placed behind a paywall.
And one of the most attention-getting elements of NBC's coverage—an irreverent, sometimes-profane stream of commentary on Olympics highlights offered by comic Kevin Hart and rapper Snoop Dogg—was also based on Peacock, where the wider audience likely didn't see it. (Be warned: The YouTube clip below does not bleep the salty language.)
NBC was already facing an uphill battle, negotiating a 13-hour time difference that ensured many sports fans would already know the outcome of key contests before they were shown in prime time on the network. Several competitors NBC had hyped for months leading into the Games, from tennis star Naomi Osaka to gymnastics legend Simone Biles and the U.S. women's soccer team, struggled in competition.
And there was the biggest challenge: presenting the Games during a pandemic. Besides the decision to ban most spectators and some athletes dropping out after positive coronavirus tests, the world's ongoing struggles with COVID-19 dampened an event that could have been a triumphant showcase of the globe's emergence from lockdown.