Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Ryan Seacrest Offers Useless Facebook Friend Stats in Lieu of Sports Analysis

Was Ryan Seacrest's on-air comparison of which Olympic athletes had the most Facebook followers on Sunday night meant as actual sports analysis?

Maybe it was some kind of clever commercial product placement to help Facebook try and bolster it's sagging stock price by showing advertisers that being able to show the number of friends you have on Facebook justifies it's initial $104 billion market capitalization?

If you didn't watch the Olympics broadcast on Sunday night, at some point during the coverage NBC cut away from track or gymnastics coverage and returned to Bob Costas on the set, who turned to his left and looked at the analysts chair next to him where Ryan Seacrest (pictured above) was seated.

Before I knew what was happening Seacrest was standing up offering analysis; but not about any of the events that had just taken place, or the athletes who'd competed in them. Instead Seacrest turned to a big color monitor with a Facebook logo on it and proceeded to launch into a comparison of which athletes had the most social media followers.

I had a WTF? moment, then quickly changed the channel. Nothing against Ryan Seacrest but watching him do post-event Olympic analysis was kind of like watching Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News in the same chair where Cronkite and Rather sat; you just felt there was just something awkward about it and it didn't quite work.

Seacrest sits at the top of the media food chain as a veteran radio personality and television producer. Okay so he's executive producer of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Denise Richards: It's Complicated, it's not a crime to work with attention-seeking Kardashians or Charlie Sheen's ex is it?

He's certainly a veteran television host with shows like American Idol, the 2008 Superbowl pregame and halftime shows, E! news and the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards to his credits; but what's he doing offering Olympic sports analysis of any kind? He's never covered mainstream competitive sports on TV, he's not an Olympic medal winner - or even an athlete for that matter.

To be fair to NBC, broadcasting daily continuous coverage of the 2012 Olympics has to be an enormous undertaking. We can appreciate the need for the various athlete profiles, interviews and assorted "filler types" of pieces used to fill time between the transitions between different events.

Maybe Seacrest's out-of-place social media/Web metrics piece was just a klutzy way of NBC Universal trying to woo Seacrest's coveted American Idol demo; God knows there have been enough commercial promos for NBC's The Voice with Howard Stern. (Fifteen years ago the former self-crowned "King of All Media" would've mocked HIMSELF for doing that show) 

There are dozens of former Olympic athletes with personality, camera presence, media savvy and intricate knowledge of specific Olympic sports who would have made better (and more insightful) analysts than Seacrest.

On a Sunday night when Jamaican Usain Bolt outran a talent-rich field to set an Olympic record in the 100 and US gymnast McKayla Maroney fell on her second vault to take silver; I think NBC could have done better than Ryan Seacrest. I'd venture the sports-savvy American audience was probably expecting something a little more substantive than "which athlete has the most Facebook friends". 

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