Mark Lazarus responds to criticism (cont.)
We will look at the schedule. Once the event schedule is set for Sochi, once the federations say the events are taking place at these times, we will re-evaluate everything. Is there some opportunity to do something different of weekends? Our philosophy is this: primetime is undeniable the time when the most people are available to watch it. Are there are a lot of people available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons? Potentially, yes. Are there more people available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the winter than summer? Potentially yes when you look at the weather patterns of the States. So do I think we will evolve the coverage? Yes. But I will not make it definitive now until we get all the research and all the data and see the event schedule for Sochi.
On how much he wants his employees in London to engage and respond to people on Twitter criticizing the Olympic coverage:
I don't think you can stop the communication that occurs in the world right now. I would want our people to be measured in what they say and to be respectful of the criticism. People's opinions are people's opinions and everyone is entitled to them, but if something is making a flat-out wrong or inaccurate statement, I am comfortable with our people making a measured professional response to that.
On dealing with what NBC executives term as unfair criticism:
The claim that we cut out a terrorism tribute during the Opening Ceremonies was wrong. That is just flat-out wrong. That was not a 7/7 [referring to the London bombings in 2005] tribute. [The London Games' artistic director] Danny Boyle did an interview with [NBC's] Meredith Viera afterward and in his words, the 27th of July was his father's birthday, the night of the opening ceremonies. He thought it was a nice idea to put pictures of people who had been working for the Games, or for people to send pictures of their loved ones who could not be part of it, and those pictures were shown on the screen with a hymn called "Abide With Me" [The official program is here]. In Danny's words and in all the meetings we had with him, we never knew those pictures would be up. He never told us that part. It wasn't relevant to what was going on the field of play. In his mind, it had nothing to do with 7/7. Somebody here made the leap that it was which is inaccurate. It then got to the States and someone said we had this terrible omission, which was not an omission. It was omission of the song "Abide With Me," but it was not an omission of what people said it was regarding the 7/7 attacks. If that had been the case of what it was, we might have treated it differently. We would have treated it differently.
This is the first time I've talked about it. We made a decision that with so much vitriol and hatred toward us that for us to come out and try to dispel that, there was no upside for us. So we just took it. Dozens of "real American journalists" picked up on that and berated us for something that was patently wrong -- and it is still getting written. Again, did we make some promotional miscues? Without a doubt. We don't like that and we are not proud of that. But for people to say we are doing some things intentionally, I mean, why would we do that?
On whether he regrets NBC's actions regarding the Twitter suspension of Guy Adams, a Los Angeles-based reporter for the U.K. Independent newspaper who tweeted an NBC executive's work email:
It's a fair question. Do I regret our actions? We were advised -- and this has been documented -- that if we had an issue we would lodge a complaint. We didn't say take him down. We lodged a complaint through the formal process that's on Twitter to lodge a complaint. We did not know what their actions would be. My assumption is that they would have asked him to take down that post. Twitter made a different decision. We are not trying to stifle speech. We are not trying to stifle criticism. If we were trying to stifle criticism, we would not have Twitter and Facebook here as part of the Games. We probably should have known or been advised what their [Twitter] actions might be. That is why we rescinded our complaint and they put him back on. Our executive [Gary Zenkel] not only got a lot of emails, but personal attacks and threats. If I showed you some of the emails we have gotten, you would be horrified that people would speak that way... Our motives were pure and simple to protect Gary from being inundated with profanity and hundreds or thousands of emails that were clogging up the work.
On why Ryan Seacrest was assigned to the Olympics and how he has performed at the Games:
Our thought about Ryan was he's got a cultural relevancy to many people in America who may not be following the Olympics. There have been some people who say, "Why is he there?" I think he is there because of just that. We are trying to cultivate a new generation of Olympic fans and to do that sometimes you stretch the bounds of sport. I think no one is working is harder than Ryan here. He's touching a lot of bases and has built a great rapport with some of the athletes quickly. They look at him as someone they can talk about their story with. I think it gives context to our broadcasts and it's very different from what I will call the reporters such as Michelle Tafoya and Alex Flanagan who are doing post-event reaction.
On the challenges of Rio:
In Rio the time difference is one hour ahead of us. Our big dilemma there will be how much do put on live in primetime? How many networks do we use live in primetime and will we get criticism because we are splinting audience across two or three networks because there are so many events going on? What happens when the women's gymnastics is going on the same time Usain Bolt is running? These are different complexities but things we will have to weigh and decide. We will have to make decisions as will the viewer. But invariably, someone will be mad at us because we did not make the right decision for them. We are trying to make decisions for the largest possible audience we can.