NBC's Coverage of The Beijing Olympics Has Been...Slightly Better
Now...I'm going to be fair to NBC; they're kinda sorta getting it. Kinda. Sorta. They went out of their way to get the gymnastics and swimming shown live. All the obscure events (which I enjoy) have been shown live to everyone. And the on-line coverage and rewind features have allowed us to re-watch almost every event, big and small. So it's way better than Athens 2004 and light years ahead of the abominable 2000 coverage. Of course, the East Coast centered media couldn't be more happy.
Nevertheless, everyone on the West Coast is still getting the shaft. You might be getting the swimming and gymnastics live, but it's still tape-delayed for us. We pretty much had to avoid the Internet for 3 hours to see all the Phelps races, and even then I still stumbled on the results because EVERYONE reported it live.
When I found out the much-anticipated US-Argentina match was being tape-delayed 3 hours here in California, I just snorted and slept through it. I love the Redeem Team, but I'm not going to constrict my viewing habits just to please the Peacock. To their credit, they did learn their lesson; the gold medal game will be shown live to everyone.
Apparently NBC is prescribing to the theory of Mark Cuban, that white collars will ignore the Internet and even NBCOlympics.com to watch the events on their big 50 inch TVs. And part of it is true: the ratings have been historically high, so it's unlikely we'll see any changes for Vancouver or London. The fair weather fan gets what he or she wants, while the die hard just watches the videos he gets, shrugs, and move son.
Despite the improvements in coverage with everything else, the track and field coverage has been abysmal. The decathlon/heptathlon have been so marginalized they might as well have shown Dan O'Brien's performance from Atlanta and found more continuity. Brian Clay could give a few middle fingers to the Peacock for the way they shafted through his coverage (about five minutes of the decathlon shown all night). What comedy.
Any athletics event that didn't include an American got banished to 1:45 in the morning or the early morning slots that no one watches. Yet we're going to get the entire marathons live (for the East Coast) and those ridiculous 20k/50k walks being broadcast in their entirety.
NBC might not quite get this (they do the same things with Wimbledon and the French Open), but sporting events are supposed to be shown live. They're intriguing, they're awesome, but if they're on tape, they ruin the fan experience because we know it's already happened. We don't feel like we have an impact. We watch them, but almost begrudgingly.
What made the 4x100 m swim meet so much fun for half the country? They were seeing it along with the rest of the world. We had to shut ourselves off for 3 hours to keep ourselves in the dark. What fun is that?
But NBC has made it quite clear that they emphasize ratings and ad revenue and try to have it their way instead of both ways. The simple solution to show the events live during the early morning/night and then tape-delayed for the rest of the country never happens, because than Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieria would get screwed out of Today Live from the Olympics.
Why show the same broadcast tape delayed at 3 am instead of live coverage with Matt Vasgersian? Oh, I guess Bob Costas would go into a tizzy. Plus we'd all prefer Mary Carillo's adventures with MSG and Cris Collinsworth's painfully trite pieces (he's a one sport man, that's for sure).
So people who watch the Olympics for the sports outside the East Coast are likely to get screwed again. I can't even believe I'm saying this, but if they don't learn their lessons for the next two Olympics, here's to hoping ESPN outbids NBC for the rights to 2016.
What are your thoughts on NBC's coverage of the Olympics?
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