A New Fund and a New Chapter

The New CRV XVI Fund

— Jon Auerbach, CRV

CRV announced our new fund today. It is our 16th fund, spanning 44 years of early-stage venture investing. And while the fund is the culmination of decades of operating experience and strong results, it is more about the new CRV than about the firm many have known as Charles River Ventures.

In our early years, Charles River Ventures invested in some of the defining companies of the pre-Internet and early-Internet ages. We worked with founders at MCI who disrupted the telecommunications industry, with entrepreneurs at Ciena who built the fiber optic backbone that helps run today’s Internet, and with hundreds of other startups who were working to change the world through technology.

Since those days, we’ve helped 73 portfolio companies IPO — a remarkable 18+% of the firm’s total investments. And in the last decade, CRV has invested in eight “unicorn” companies where each reached an outcome of more than a billion dollars. As CB Insights pointed out last month, there aren’t many other early-stage investors with that kind of track record.

We remain committed to Boston. With our strong brand, our 44-year-old network, and our Boston-based team, we will continue to invest in the market, particularly in enterprise software, infrastructure and robotics where there have been large exits and there are very high potential companies. But the West Coast is where the center of gravity for technology and investing, especially in consumer, mobile and cloud computing, has clearly shifted. Over the past 12 years, we’ve taken our rich East Coast history from our office next door to MIT and gone West.

CRV XVI is the first fund we’ve raised with the bulk of our investing team in the Bay Area. A decade ago, the majority of partners and our portfolio were East Coast-based. Today, that’s totally reversed. Six of our eight investors are based in Menlo Park, and our team has worked with some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs at companies like Twitter, Yammer and Zendesk who are building the next consumer Internet giants and revolutionizing the way enterprises work. Those three companies alone have a combined market value of more than $24 billion today, and CRV was the first institutional investor in all three — something we are very proud of.

In addition to our physical presence in Silicon Valley, we’ve also made a symbolic change. As much as we love the Charles River, we are now CRV. Even more important than the name, we have created a clear and deliberate articulation of the values we think make CRV unique among venture firms.

These values are front and center on our website, and they all stem from our deep respect for entrepreneurs. We are lucky enough to be in business with change-the-world entrepreneurs, and we don’t take it for granted. Because we invest early, the relationships we build with founders last years, not months, often through pivots and growing pains, and we want to be with them for every part of the ride. We often say that we strive to be the board member the entrepreneurs want to call, not the one they need to call. We mean it.

Rather than raise large funds and adopt multi-stage business models, CRV has stayed committed to early-stage investments with small funds. We think it’s the best model for our firm, and our Limited Partners seem to agree. This latest fund of $393 million was raised in record time. We spent two weeks meeting with our Limited Partners and closed a few weeks later. We are deeply honored to have earned the trust of the foundations, endowments and pension funds that invest with CRV. We don’t take that trust lightly. And we are deeply indebted to the world-class entrepreneurs who have accepted us as business partners throughout the years.

For those of you who run teams or work in teams, you know that team dynamics are the critical factor in defining success. Our team now includes investors with a combined experience of almost 70 years in venture capital — Devdutt Yellurkar, George Zachary, and Saar Gur based in Menlo Park, and Izhar Armony and me in Boston. But it also includes young investors on the West Coast, such as Annie Kadavy, Max Gazor, and Rafael Corrales, all of whom bring great experience and insight to our table. They are as much the future of CRV as our move West. And we couldn’t be more excited about our next chapter.

Next Story — Our Boston Thesis and Some New Faces at CRV
Currently Reading - Our Boston Thesis and Some New Faces at CRV

Our Boston Thesis and Some New Faces at CRV

A year ago I published a blog announcing our 16th early-stage venture fund. As part of the post, I talked about how the fund was the first in our 45-year history to be managed by more partners on the West Coast than in Boston, the culmination of more than a decade of effort building a meaningful presence in Silicon Valley. I discussed why we as a firm believe that Boston remains an important part of our strategy, but that we felt right-sized given the sheer number of opportunities in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Unfortunately, some in the ecosystem questioned our commitment to Boston given the shift West. As I said a year ago, our roots in Boston are strong, and they’re getting stronger. I’m excited to announce two terrific hires we’ve made here.

Murat Bicer joined CRV last month as a General Partner. Murat, a native of Turkey, was most recently a GP at RTP Ventures, a New York-based fund. Before that, he spent nearly 5 years at another Boston-based VC firm. Though just 36, Murat has built an impressive portfolio in the enterprise software space, having worked with great teams at DataDog, Zerto, Chef and XtremeIO, among others.

Another new hire in Boston is Danny Crichton. Danny dropped out of a PhD program at Harvard to join CRV. Some of you may know him as a TechCrunch writer with a profound ability to explain key trends in technology and entrepreneurship. A graduate of Stanford, Danny has done stints at Google, the CIA and in venture capital in Silicon Valley.

Both Murat and Danny voted with their feet and chose to hang their shingles in Boston. Both bring significant strengths to Boston and CRV as a whole. We are extremely lucky to have them on our team to help us identify and work with the talented startups in this region.

Though the startup ecosystem in Boston is significantly smaller than Silicon Valley, the talent pool of world-class entrepreneurs who call Boston home remains high, especially in enterprise software and the “hard” science areas of networking, storage and robotics. Many of these companies trace their roots back to the world-class educational system in Boston. We have been fortunate enough over the past two decades to have worked with foundational companies including Netezza, HubSpot, EqualLogic, and Sonus, all multi-billion-dollar outcomes.

Forbes recently published a list of the next billion-dollar-startups around the country. Only two were based in Boston, Affirmed Networks and SimpliVity. Both of those companies, which build infrastructure software, were literally created in the offices of CRV, with CRV partners working together with incredibly talented repeat entrepreneurs.

But even outside traditional areas there are signs of huge disruption coming from Boston. Take for example PillPack, a Boston-area company attacking the pharmacy industry with an incredibly innovative online delivery model for prescription medications. CRV this summer made a $30 million investment in the company — the largest single investment we’ve ever done in a startup. And it was led by George Zachary, one of our California-based partners.

We remain laser focused on investing in world-class entrepreneurs on both coasts, and we’ll continue to add the right talent to our team in both our offices to help us achieve this goal. When it comes to Boston, we’re here to stay.


Next Story — All your memes are belong to us
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Such meme. Very wow. (Illustration by Harry Malt for The Washington Post)

All your memes are belong to us

The top 25 memes of the web’s first 25 years

By Gene Park, Adriana Usero and Chris Rukan

For more of The Web at 25, visit The Washington Post.

Memes didn’t begin with the Web, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term in his 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene,” to describe something that already existed. A meme, from the Greek “mimeme” (to imitate) was “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” This encompassed phenomena from Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” to the famous graffiti drawing “Kilroy Was Here,” which dates to the beginning of World War II.

But the Web has proved to be the most fertile ground, and the site Know Your Meme has confirmed more than 2,600 of them. Below, 25 definitive memes from the Web’s first 25 years.

[1] Dancing Baby

1996: Considered the granddaddy of Internet memes, the baby shuffling to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” filled inboxes and prime-time airwaves, appearing in several episodes of “Ally McBeal.” The file was originally included with early 3D software. LucasFilm developers modified it before it was widely shared, and it was finally compressed into one of the first GIFs.

[2] Hampster Dance

1998: Proving that GIFs were meant for stardom, a Canadian art student made a webpage with 392 hamster GIFs as a tribute to her pet rodent. The infectious soundtrack was a sped-up, looped version of “Whistle Stop” by Roger Miller.

[3] Peanut Butter Jelly Time

2001: A Flash animation featuring an 8-bit dancing banana, “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” became an Internet phenomenon in the early 2000s. The catchy song was written and performed by the Buckwheat Boyz, a rap group.

[4] All Your Base Are Belong to Us

2001: A meme that would echo across the gaming community for years to come, “All your base are belong to us” originated in a cut scene in the Japanese video game “Zero Wing.” The poorly translated quote has persisted as an Internet catchphrase.

[5] Star Wars Kid

2002: Arguably the first victim of large-scale cyberbullying, Ghyslain Raza unwillingly became a meme based on a video of him swinging a golf ball retriever as a weapon, reminiscent of Darth Maul in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” It was an early sign that Internet privacy was not guaranteed for anyone.

[6] Spongmonkeys

2003: Before they became spokesthings for Quiznos, two singing Spongmonkeys catapulted to viral stardom after being featured in a newsletter for b3ta, an early link- and image-sharing site. Their opening line: “We like the moon.”

[7] Numa Numa

2004: The eyebrow lift. The arm pumping when the beat drops. The song (by Moldovan boy band O-Zone). Gary Brolsma, sitting at his desk, showed us all what it means to “dance like no one’s watching.”

[8] O RLY

2005: Originating on the community site 4chan, the wide-eyed owl was used to show sarcasm, becoming a precursor to other reaction memes.

[9] Chuck Norris Facts

2005: Chuck Norris was the Internet’s first “most interesting man in the world,” crowned the avatar for mythical men with impossible strength, attitude and swagger. “There is no theory of evolution,” as one “fact” says. “Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.”

[10] I Can Has Cheezburger?

2007: Animal-based memes are a dime a dozen, but the “I Can Has Cheezburger” blog, whose mascot is a surprised, hungry British shorthair cat, brought them into the mainstream. The blog was created by Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami.

Rickroll and Deal With It collide to form an uber-meme

[11] Rickroll

2007: Before there was clickbait, there was the Rickroll. Popularized on 4chan, the gag — springing a Rick Astley video on an unsuspecting victim — has appeared during a session of the Oregon legislature and even on the White House’s Twitter feed.

[12] Success Kid

2007: Based on a photo that Sammy Griner’s mother, Laney, posted to Flickr when he was 11 months old, the meme describes something that goes better than expected. In 2015, Sammy’s fame helped his family raise more than $100,000 to offset the costs of a kidney transplant for his father, Justin.

[13] Dramatic Chipmunk

2007: A simple, five-second video clip of a chipmunk — ahem, actually a prairie dog — suddenly turning its head, from the Japanese TV show “Hello Morning.” The maneuver is set to an exaggerated bit of music from 1974’s “Young Frankenstein.”

[14] Philosoraptor

2008: This portmanteau meme was an early example of an “advice animal,” depicting the vicious dinosaur deep in introspection, and pondering wordplay and life’s general paradoxes.

[15] Deal With It

2010: In this GIF, sunglasses slide onto a smug canine’s face. It was around as an emoticon on the SomethingAwful forums for a while, then became a meme when the site Dump.fm held a contest encouraging users to create their own versions, with sunglasses sliding onto various faces and objects.

[16] Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife

2010: “So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband ’cause they’re raping everybody out here,” Antoine Dodson emphatically told a TV reporter after an intruder attempted to assault his sister. The clip spread quickly on YouTube, leading to Auto-Tuned versions and remixes.

Nyanyanyanyanyanyanyare you going insane yet?

[17] Nyan Cat

2011: The combination of an animated 8-bit cat (originally dubbed “Pop-Tart Cat”) with the insanely catchy tune “Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!” blew up on YouTube, becoming the site’s fifth-most-viewed video of 2011 and inspiring fan illustrations, designs and games.

[18] Ermahgerd

2012: Originally uploaded as “Gersberms . . . mah fravrit berks” and later “BERKS!,” the text superimposed on this meme mimics the garbled speech of a person with a retainer.

[19] Bad Luck Brian

2012: Takes goofy yearbook photo. Gets face plastered all over the Internet. His real name is Kyle Craven, and he’s Internet famous thanks to his friend Ian Davies, who uploaded the photo to Reddit with the text “Takes driving test . . . gets first DUI.”

[20] Grumpy Cat

2012: The original photo of Tardar Sauce (that’s her name) racked up 1 million views on Imgur in its first two days. The meme has since spawned books, a comic book, an endorsement deal with Friskies cat food and a made-for-TV Christmas movie, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” with Aubrey Plaza voicing Grumpy Cat.

[21] Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

2012: Uploaded to Reddit on April 3, the photo of the handsome runner quickly garnered 40,000 upvotes. Derivatives include Ridiculously Photogenic Metalhead, Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Rebel, Ridiculously Photogenic Prisoner and Ridiculously Photogenic Running Back.

[22] Doge

2013: In February 2010, a kindergarten teacher in Japan uploaded pictures of Kabosu, her adopted shiba inu, to her personal blog, and a meme was born. It usually features broken English phrases in the comic sans font, representing an inner monologue.

[23] Crying Michael Jordan

2014: The basketball great got a little emotional during his 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech. Around 2014, meme-makers started using an Associated Press photo, superimposing Jordan’s face over failures of all sorts.

[24] Ice Bucket Challenge

2014: While the origins of this one are unclear — people have been doing cold-water challenges for years — the results weren’t. The ALS Association raised more than $100 million in a month, compared with $2.8 million over the same period the previous year.

[25] Left Shark

2015: During the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, Katy Perry performed with two dancing sharks. One shark stuck to the routine. The other, well, did his own thing — and became an Internet sensation.

And if you’re not over memes like the Internet isn’t over Harambe, we’ve compiled a Spotify meme-themed playlist for you to follow and take with you on the go.

Did we miss your favorite internet meme? Tell us about it — and why it’s so great — in the comments.

Next Story — The Apple-Google shift
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The Apple-Google shift

In the last couple of years, two very distinct things have happened — or, to be more precise, been happening — in the world of consumer tech, in my opinion. A shift has occurred: Apple, once the definition of innovation, has become stale, content to rest on its laurels; while Google, once ugly and disparate, has continually pushed forward with new and better products that are a delight to use.

The result is two-fold: firstly, from a software perspective, Google-authored apps have all but replaced Apple’s defaults on my iPhone; secondly, for the first time ever, I find myself potentially choosing a Google phone over an Apple phone — a choice that represents not just a one-off hardware purchasing decision, but a first tentative step outside of Apple’s ecosystem and, as a result, a break in unashamed Apple fanboy-ism.

Okay, so I’m considering a switch to Android. No big deal. I’m following in the footsteps of many, many, many others. But what I find interesting outside of my own personal decision is that there seems to be a growing discontent with Apple — especially amongst former so-called fanboys/girls — and, at the same time, a growing appreciation of what Google have been doing, especially from a design perspective. In many ways it’s unwise to compare these two companies alone, but few would disagree that these days they’re the two sides of one coin.

So I thought I’d try and pick this apart. What’s actually changed?

It’s not that Apple no longer creates great products, but there’s just not that spark there anymore, is there? Remember when a new MacBook or iMac would launch? Or the iPhone? Or pretty much any new product? The buzz was palpable; the hype almost always justified. For years and years, Apple constantly innovated, whether it was with entirely new product lines or updates to existing ones, but recently everything has just felt a little… well, meh, hasn’t it?

Could this feeling because Apple is now so ubiquitous, no longer the underdog? Possibly. And could this be down to some very shrewd business decisions, with Apple deciding to refine and hone rather than experiment, as evidenced by the longer life cycles of designs for their phones and computers? Very likely.

But that doesn’t excuse recent product launches that have (again, in my opinion) fallen flat by their past standards. The MacBook? Well, it’s a lovely little machine (and I’m typing on it right now) and I even took a whole set of photos to capture its beautiful form, but time has revealed it to be irritating in many ways (the keys repeatedly get stuck, for instance, and the removal of a magnetic power connector is genuinely irritating). The Apple Watch? After the initial magic wore off, I came to the conclusion that it’s essentially useless — as did almost every other Apple Watch owner I’ve spoken to. The new Apple TV? A total lack of innovation — both from its previous version and the numerous offerings from competitors. New iPhones aren’t even exciting anymore.

In many ways, I wonder if this all started with the launch of iOS 7: although I was originally one of its supporters when it came out and enraged half the Apple-buying world, when I think about it these days, iOS still doesn’t really encourage interaction. It’s not about flat design versus skeuomorphic design; it’s more about how Apple laid the groundwork for what a great, minimal, mobile operating system could be… and then never really built upon those foundations. The same could be said of their camera technology. The iPhone camera’s noise reduction algorithm has ruined many a photo that would have benefitted from not being put through a paint-like Photoshop filter. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Apple Music. What a mess. Sure, it’s not a total failure from an interaction design point of view, but it’s a sub-par effort from a company that should really be far, far, far better than any other steaming music competitors. That Apple Music has been so successful is only down to the ecosystem they’ve cultivated — not because it offers a superior experience.

Then there’s just all the douche moves Apple has made again and again with proprietary connections — their decision to remove the headphone jack on the forthcoming new iPhone being the latest. All of this has added up to make even this most ardent of Apple fanboys start to question his allegiances.

And all the while this has been going on, Google — which, with each new product launch, whether software or hardware, has become even more of an Apple competitor — has continued to innovate; to make better versions of Apple’s own apps. (I don’t even need to mention Maps, do I? No? Good.) And from a design perspective, Google has well and truly grown up: Material Design offered a lot of promise when it was first announced, and in the time that’s passed since, it’s proven itself to be a strong framework for unifying a the company’s multiple software offerings. Sure, there are times when its incarnation feels a little templated and dry — Google Play Music, for example — and perhaps it’s easy to praise Google for their grown-up new looks when, until recent times, Google web apps were so damn ugly. (Remember how Gmail used to look? For a reminder of that less graceful era, look at the browser version of Google Calendar.) But the difficulty of creating a system that works in so many instances, both in terms of aesthetics and interaction, should not be underestimated.

Beneath all of these apps and interactions and aesthetics, there’s another layer of Google that has become so trusted: its infrastructure. Yes, I get the fears about our data being mined to show us more relevant ads, but who do I trust for reliable cloud syncing: Apple or Google? Who do I trust to backup and share my photo library: Apple or Google? Whose infrastructure do I trust for my emails, documents, calendars, and more: Apple or Google? Granted, the latter could be any service provider vs. Google, but the point is that Google’s infrastructure underpins so much of the internet and our daily lives, it often just doesn’t make sense to let someone else handle what we know Google can handle so well.

(At this point, i’m going to refrain from delving into lengthy praises of particular Google apps and services, but I do want to give a quick mention to the Google Calendar and Google Photos iOS apps. They’re so radically superior to Apple’s equivalents, I’d question anyone’s need to ever open those defaults again.)

All this is to say: if Google can be this good on a competitor’s operating system, how much better can it be in its own environment? This is the question that’s been gaining traction in my head recently.

Android used to be a poor man’s iOS, but it’s obviously grown a lot since then. Unfortunately, fragmentation is a problem that’s plagued Android from the very beginning and is probably the primary factor that’s never allowed me to take switching seriously, but here’s where it gets interesting: with Google making (via OEMs) its own Nexus hardware, it’s possible to use a vanilla version of Android, free of bloat from carrier-installed software. It also removes that weird you-can-only-use-this-particlar-version-of-Android thing that plagues Android phones made by other manufacturers, and, in doing so, puts Google on an evening playing field with Apple: control the hardware and you control the software.It just works.

So it’s this vision of Android — a Google phone in its purest form — that’s making me, and others, consider the switch. And with new Nexus phones rumoured to land (or at least be announced) very soon, the opportunity to do so might be just around the corner.

Or maybe not. The new iPhone is also due very soon. Maybe it’ll be amazing. Maybe it’ll be the best hardware and software combination that exists in the world. Maybe Apple’s core apps, services, and experiences that underpin the entire iOS / macOS / tvOS ecosystem will up their respective games and I’ll look back on this post as blasphemy.

But — sadly — I’m not sure that’s something the Apple of 2016 is capable of.

Next Story — No, Bloomberg, the Olympics didn’t stumble because of Millennials. It stumbled because of NBC.
Currently Reading - No, Bloomberg, the Olympics didn’t stumble because of Millennials. It stumbled because of NBC.

No, Bloomberg, the Olympics didn’t stumble because of Millennials. It stumbled because of NBC.

Bloomberg and NBC want to blame the audience for not participating in their content the way they expected them to. But if the results were not what they expected, perhaps they should consider that maybe the problem is with the product.

On Friday of last week, Bloomberg wrote an insulting piece outlining the viewership stumbling blocks that NBC has faced with the 2016 Olympics in Rio, particularly with the coveted 18–49 age block which dropped 25%. Ok, so way more than Millennials, but I’ll continue to read. The article goes on to loosely blame the regulars like Snapchat and Netflix, with very little (read: none) criticism at NBC’s presentation of the Olympics themselves, from the actual coverage, to the user experience of the platforms.

On the opening night of the Olympics, I came home from work and set out to figure out the best way to watch the Opening Ceremony live. As a multimedia professional, the Olympics Opening Ceremony is a wonderland of what’s possible with today’s video and presentation technology, something to marvel at every four years. I’ve been a cord cutter for about 8 years now, so let’s see what what this experience was like for what is a growing segment of the population, particularly in that 18–49 year old demographic Bloomberg was referring to.

Step 1: Apple TV — 20 minutes

Our 4th Generation Apple TV is the staple of our home entertainment experience. I came home to find that my fiancé had installed the NBC Sports app, and was watching the player profiles. I thought our work here was done. But after a uninteresting featurette started playing, we temporarily left the streaming video, and realized we were not watching the live broadcast, but a piece put up on demand. So we went to the Live tab, and again, were greeted with on demand pieces, with no option to actually view live. OK, so lets try and sign in. My company has a few set top boxes I help manage, so I thought I’d give it a shot. The app requested I visit an activation URL from a desktop computer (why it can’t handle it in App is beyond me but possibly a limitation on Apple’s behalf, though I doubt it). After authenticating, I’m informed we don’t have an NBC Sports subscription so the content is not available to me. FINE. But we DO have NBC. So I download NBC’s app, have to go through the authentication process a SECOND time (note: this will be streamlined in the tvOS update this Fall with Single Sign On). This go around is successful, however, NBC’s app does not support streaming, at least in my area. Beaten and frustrated, I move on to the internet.

Step 2: The Web Browser — 20 minutes

I start with the most obvious of locations, the NBC Olympics portal. The design is clunky but seems feature rich overall. Notably missing is a real schedule — I can look up the schedule by event, but it’s clunky at best, and Google’s Olympic schedule bested everything I had seen and converted all of the times automatically to my time zone. +1 for Google.

I finally navigate to the live portal where I’m greeted with the live feed, at least in the NBC Primetime programming sense of the word. Perfect! I’m done! Except there’s a little timer warning me that this is a preview and I need to authenticate in order to watch for an unlimited time. DAMNIT. This is a PUBLIC AIRWAVES BROADCASTING COMPANY! This alone would be enough to turn me off as a Millennial.

As a consumer, if I’m making a decision the day of the Opening Ceremony to view the Olympics, I’m being told by NBC that if I want to watch, I now need to A) Find a cable company I don’t totally despise, B) wait 3–5 days minimum to schedule installation, and C) take a full day off of work so I can be present while the technician plugs in a box into the pre-existing coaxial outlet in my apartment, something I’m fully capable of as an adult that can read simple instructions.

Again, luckily I have access to some minimum subscriptions, including NBC, so I go through the authentication process. But after going through authentication, I’m again told I don’t have the right package. But we do have NBC, so what gives? All I could gather (because useful error messages are a lot to ask for) is it’s either because A) NBC doesn’t stream in my area, or B) I don’t have the NBC Sports package. Fine. Whatever.

Step 3: Over The Air — 20 minutes

The last resort of every cord cutter everywhere is a television antenna, if you even own one. With our monthly bill for Hulu, Netflix, and HBO, our antenna is rarely hooked up outside of Football season, so I set out to get it plugged in, an annoying task for any mounted flat television. I have to google what our local NBC channel is because I have no idea, and when I finally land on it, I now set out to actually get signal because NBC is so weak in our building. After trying for about 10 minutes, I finally get something stable. It still cuts out every two minutes or so, hence my preference for streaming, but it’s tolerable (not exactly the word you want associated with your brand).


I’ve been working on this for around an hour, and am really only seeing this through at this point because it’s important to my fiancé. I’m annoyed, I’m tired, but I feel like we’ve finally made it, with about 10 minutes to spare. There’s commercial after commercial playing, but I feel this is an acceptable trade off — I’d much rather prefer NBC front load the commercial experience so I can have a fairly uninterrupted presentation of this culturally significant opening event.

The show starts, and while the commentary is lowest common denominator at best, it’s, again, tolerable. We settle in and relax. The next 20 minutes was some of the worst programming decisions I’ve witnessed in my entire life. My assumption was quickly proved wrong about 5 minutes in, when Matt Lauer informs me we’re going to a commercial break in the middle of the opening. After sitting through the same Nationwide and Chevy spots as I had just 10 minutes ago, we come back to the ceremony, and even though we’re watching the Mountain Standard Time delay feed, we’ve missed parts of the ceremony. We had just settled back into the rhythm of the presentation, when it’s back to commercials. It’s roughly the same ones we just saw, and again we return with time having passed in the ceremony, dropping us back in wherever NBC saw fit. It wasn’t until NBC cut out of “The History of Brazil” piece for yet another commercial break that I finally just turned the TV off.

We weren’t watching the Olympics Ceremony. We were watching advertising that happened to have bits and pieces of the ceremony in between them.

And Finally: The Olympics

Several days later, my fiancé had friends in town that wanted to watch the Olympics at our apartment, so we sat and watched the Swimming and Gymnastics primetime presentation. It opened with Simone Biles and Co., but then, despite being filmed earlier in the day, inexplicably goes from the earlier rounds of Gymnastics to Swimming. Hours pass before we finally get to see the resolution to those Gymnastics rounds, even though Simone Biles and Michael Phelps both easily served as headlines for Primetime. Why they decided to split them up is beyond me.

We had reception issues due to a storm the following night, so I bit the bullet and bought a SlingTV subscription. NBC is included in package description, so I go for it. However, apparently Denver is not part of the “In Select Markets”. That’s fine, now I can finally authorize my account for NBC Sports. Except NBC doesn’t recognize Sling TV as an acceptable Cable subscription, despite being precisely that — a cable subscription. I give up, and we watch the broken up broadcast feed.

NBC: A Post Mortem

I was tempted to shorten this article, but then the lengths of measure I had to take to view something that is available for free over the airwaves show there is clearly a problem. I’m sure NBC were patting themselves on the backs for how easy it would be to watch online this year, but that’s only true for cable subscribers, a slowly shrinking percentage of the US population, especially for Millennials. The reason NBC is losing Millennials to other platforms for entertainment is because all of those platforms have lowered the barriers to enjoy the programming. I can sign up for Hulu, Netflix, and HBO nearly in an instant. Oh, and did I mention they’re all ad free (with a premium on Hulu)?

Had NBC offered the entire Olympic Platform for a small fee (less than $10), they probably would have seen their Millennial numbers skyrocket. Hell, they could have charged $5 more for an “Ad Free” presentation and padded their pockets even more. But instead, they relied on the old dying models of traditional broadcast network and revenue models of years past, and it bit them in the ass. And this doesn’t even touch the philosophical debate of “Why do I need a subscription for a network that broadcasts on public airwaves anyways”? Or “Who the hell cares what Hoda thinks about the Opening Ceremony?” It’s a presentation, it doesn’t need commentary. We can draw our own conclusions, and if we’re curious about something, you can help fill in the gaps during the recap. They sound like idiots trying to speak to idiots. Treat your audience like they’re intelligent and you might improve the overall public discourse.

It’s worth noting that if you want to view any of this content in its entirety on demand, NBC still has a authentication wall up on the Olympics Platform page.

This kind of programming doesn’t work for us. It’s one thing that you don’t have live coverage, even though our phones are buzzing us to notify who the winners of the big events are as they happen. It’s one thing to show an INSANE amount of advertising, usually from the same group of companies, over and over and over again. It’s one thing to inexplicably break up event coverage, even though we’re not watching live and you’ve had plenty of time to repackage the content as you’ve seen fit. Put all of those things together, and it just amounts to a terrible user experience, where the only laughing matter is how NBC could possibly be confused by the outcome.

Bloomberg and NBC want to blame the audience for not participating in their content the way they expected them to. But if the results were not what they expected, perhaps they should consider that maybe the problem is with the product.

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