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10 Reasons Why NBC Should Lose Its Olympic Broadcast Rights; Or “How I Learned To Hate The Coolest Sporting Event In The World” February 18, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Broadcast/Internet.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UPATE: A followup to this post can be read here… and another one on the London Games here.

NBC has really managed to make a mess of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — even more than usual. I love the Olympics and am saddened that NBC has made them so painfully unwatchable, even for me:

  1. The commercials are relentless. Coverage of actual sporting events are given slots of between 3 and 9 minutes at a time, however long it takes one or two athletes to compete. Then we go to 3.5 minutes of commercials. Time it: I did. Throw in time for the talking heads and shallow featurettes, and only 51 percent of every hour turns out to be actual Olympic footage.
  2. Which geniuses at the network decided there would be No Live Coverage? There is scarcely any Olympic coverage at all during the day. None of the coverage is actually live on the U.S. West Coast, which shares a time zone with Vancouver. For example, I watched the broadcast of women’s downhill skiing last night a full 11 hours after it actually happened. Not only did I already know the outcome (a result of having this thing called the Internet), but I also knew in advance who took a spill and who took the early lead and lost it. There’s no joy of as-it-happens sport, no excitement. Dull, dull, dull.
  3. My kids can’t watch the Olympics. NBC insists on showing the Olympics during prime time, delaying all coverage for multiple hours. When prime time starts at 8 p.m., my kids are in bed. It would be nice to inspire American children, teach them about sports, teamwork, excellence and the wider world — but NBC doesn’t make it easy.
  4. Forget my kids — I can’t stay up! I’d have loved to have seen Shaun White and Lindsay Vonn receive their gold medals last night, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open until almost midnight, when the award ceremonies were apparently broadcast.
  5. NBC has ADD. If NBC is going to package a whole day of Olympic coverage into a nightly 4-hour highlight reel, why is it so impossible to cover one event completely before launching into the next one? I’m talking about the constant skipping around: showing three skaters compete, then switching gears to snowboarding, then going back again, and maybe throwing a few interviews, soundtrack highlights and features in between. People, this is not live coverage. So why does it appear that NBC can’t find its editing room?
  6. Extreme American-centricity. Go Team USA. I get it. I feel it. But during the Olympics, I’d like to hear about people from around the globe, not only Americans. After all, isn’t the international coming together of the athletes and the ensuing drama the real thrill of the Olympics? You wouldn’t know it from watching NBC.
  7. NBC crushes on a select few athletes. Shaun White. Lindsey Jacobellis. Apolo Ohno. Johnny Weir. Yeah, they’re great. But the United States has 212 other outstanding athletes with great stories also competing in Vancouver, not to mention the thousands of other Olympians gathered in the Olympic Village in Vancouver. It got so bad early on that some friends and I conceived of a new drinking game: anytime the camera rested on Shaun or Lindsey, take a drink!
  8. Lame stories. Sure, I want to hear about the athletes and their stories. That’s part of the fun and it brings the human aspect to the Games. But a few nights ago I learned, courtesy of a quite detailed and long feature by Mary Carillo, more than I needed to know about polar bears and ecotourism in Manitoba. Now, Churchill, Manitoba is in the Hudson Bay area of Canada: more than 2,000 miles from Vancouver. One question: What did this have to do with the Olympics? Sadly, this is the kind of “storytelling” we’re seeing every night on NBC.
  9. The interviews are horrendous. Pedantic, stilted, amateurish. I can’t even watch.
  10. And: There are no viable alternatives! For a while, some friends were able to watch a live Bulgarian feed on the Internet, but apparently that no longer works. Exhaustive searches have revealed no other alternatives for Americans that I know of. Stuck with NBC. Wah-wah.

NBC isn’t the network that is bringing Americans the Olympics. It’s the network that’s preventing us from watching them —  from really participating in this two-week period of international goodwill and athletic exhibition that happens only every four years.

Now: Your turn. What’s your take?!

UPATE: Followups to this post can be read here and here.



1. cathi cogle - February 19, 2010

couldn’t have said it better myself. maybe we should just wait for the DVD to come out- no commercials…

2. Elizabeth B - February 19, 2010

First, I wanted to tell you I reposted this. Second, I agree with each and every point you make; the coverage has really ruined the Olympics for me. There’s no way to avoid Olympic news all day so by the time you actually see it at night it’s completely anticlimactic. As for watching the DVD like Cathi says: A) Why would I want to buy such dreadful coverage, and B) I’m not going to buy anything that puts money into NBC’s pocket as a reward for this crap!
Well done, Lynn.

3. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 19, 2010

Cathi and Elizabeth: Thanks for reading! I can barely watch the Olympics anymore… who would buy it? Besides, isn’t the point of watching “real time” coverage the excitement of it? I don’t want to watch Johnny Weir skate two months from now, I agree 🙂

4. Pattie Kaiser - February 19, 2010

I totally agree with you! NBC should NEVER AGAIN BE ALLOWED TO BROADCAST ANY OLYMPIC GAMES!!!! Their “so called” coverage SUCKS!
I posted this comment on my FB page on Tuesday:

“How nice of NBC to squeeze in some Olympics in between their VANCOUVER 2010 COMMERCIAL MARATHON!!!!!!!!! WTF???!!! Is anyone ELSE going batty with this shit, or is it just me???”

This is SOOOO INFURIATING!!! I’ve watched the Olympic Games my whole life, and NEVER have seen such crap! I can remember when we would see one WHOLE event at a time, with EVERY participant that competed in it.
NOW, we get to see 2 or 3 competitors (of their choosing) in ONE event, in between coverage of whatever OTHER event they want to switch us to! (This ‘back and forth’ thing between events is ALSO INFURIATING!!!!!) GOOD GOD, PICK SOMETHING AND LET US SEE THE WHOLE EVENT FOR A CHANGE!!!!!
And, not having “LIVE” coverage is just totally ASSININE!!!! We usually watch the Nightly News w/Brian Williams, but had to stop that, due to the fact that HE BLABBED THE RESULTS OF THE EVENTS THEY WERE BROADCASTING…. 2 HOURS LATER THAT NIGHT!!!!! AAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!
(Oh God…I feel like a real “Sasketch-a-whiner” now!!! LOL!!!)
Thanx for a great article, Lynn, AND for letting me vent!!!!!

5. Lauren Day - February 19, 2010

OMG, could not have said it better!! Trying to watch the friggen’ figure skating events on the west coast this week has had me thisclose to going postal!!

6. Mookie - February 19, 2010

Great post.

I thought it would be hard for NBC to top their terrible coverage of the Beijing Games. Boy was I wrong. This is worse than bad. I even lowered my expectations to the point where I thought NBC’s floor WAS their ceiling. They’ve gone underground.

Please hand it over to CBS or any other network that can do things correctly.

7. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 19, 2010

@Pattie: Vent all you want! That’s what I was doing when I wrote it 🙂 Love the bit about Brian Williams… another of my friends also pointed out that NBC is doing its own spoilers. How idiotic is that?! I miss the days when they showed whole events… seems like it was only a couple of years ago in Beijing when they did that. The coverage still sucked then and it still wasn’t live, but it wasn’t close to being this kind of travesty.

@Lauren and Mookie: It’s completely unwatchable, which is a shame. I love the Olympics! And to have it right next door and not being able to watch it is fiercely stupid.

8. Chandler - February 19, 2010

What Olympics? I live just three hours south of Vancouver, and for all I know there’s nothing going on north of the border. I don’t have a television, and since I therefore cannot prove that I pay Comcast/NBC for cable TV (or another provider that has signed its soul away to them), I can’t get access to any of the NBC videos online. Oh, except for that one where the Georgian luger dies. Nice. Thanks for nothing, NBC.

A friend of mine who does have cable tells me that since we’re so close to Canada, she gets several Canadian channels as part of her package. Except now that the Olympics have started, all those Canadian channels have mysteriously disappeared.

What ever happened to anti-trust laws and the like?

9. sammy - February 19, 2010

Thank god for the British BBC, the worlds largest professional broadcaster puts the worlds lamest and pathetic network to shame, brilliantly written piece which sums up the whole sorry NBC fiasco

10. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 19, 2010

@Chandler: You bring up some good points. I didn’t want to even get into the terrible job NBC is doing online… and I didn’t realize you needed to subscribe to cable or satellite in order to see anything online…?! Really? Is that true??!

I understand the awarding of broadcast rights but the practice is probably too outdated to be useful anymore, with web and mobile. The IOC may need to examine it in the next few years and open the field up and let the broadcasters that do the best job cover it, no matter what nationality. @Sammy, you’re right… What I wouldn’t give for BBC!

Thank you ALL for reading and feeling strongly enough to write! I appreciate it!

11. Chris K. - February 19, 2010

Oh totally. When I lived in Buffalo, which is just across the lake from all the Toronto stations (although most houses in Buffalo have roofs so steep that TV antennas can’t be mounted atop, therefore most people have cable), our cable company had a few Ontario channels. But… when those football events came along, it was always straight to the TV to turn on the Canadian channels which had far better coverage of sports. And when those events aired, the cable company made sure the Canadian channels on their local cable feed would be covered with hours of infomercials (despite the game being shown 3 minutes away on the same channel on the Canadian side of the border), forcing you to watch the American network. Because of a neighbourhood cable issue, the local networks at the bottom of the TV band had severe ghosting issues, so really with the double pictures and such, we couldn’t watch the American network either. Totally shut out. No alternatives. It’s all about that advertising money. And there’s nothing different about NBC with these Olympics. My town is a little hilly and because digital TV, as is the new norm in the US, doesn’t hop hills too well, and it’s either an all-or-nothing signal, most of my town doesn’t have an NBC affiliate anymore. We also have no cable service – only satellite. Can’t see the Games on TV or NBC’s website. And they don’t care.

12. Mario John Borgatti - February 19, 2010

Lynn, I couldn’t agree more. NBC is the worst when it comes to giving anyone other than their “crushes” airtime. Even if you could stay up late to watch the awards ceremonies you still have to put up with Bob Costas’ boring and incessant background segments. If you can suffer through that, you still have to contend with his deer (or should I say moose) in the headlights monotone delivery. -mjb

13. jrc+ - February 20, 2010
14. Melanie - February 20, 2010

I said my piece on Facebook, but completely agree with everything that has been said here. Sammy, I’m British born and would love to see that BBC piece you referred to. I’ve combed the web for it. In addition to the dreadful, tape delayed, chopped up coverage I also dislike the relentless focus on the Americans to the exclusion of just about everyone else. The coverage is just embarrassing when you know how it would be done abroad, with fair focus on athletes from outside your home nation. I’d give anything for the BBC feed and would never watch NBC again. I don’t think their coverage of these games is any worse than any other that they have covered. It’s all dreadful frankly, and a disgrace to this great nation, with it’s myopic view of the world. Here’s to the upcoming summer Olympics in London in 2012… Can’t wait to see how NBC will screw that up.

15. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 20, 2010

Thanks, everyone, for your comments!

@Chris, that’s a travesty; and right there is a stellar example of one of the reasons why the IOC is going to need to change its ways. I know that the IOC counts on NBC to fill its coffers every two years but the end is coming… forced by technology, not by viewer complaints (unfortunately). You can’t have mobile and web and emerging technologies and still stay in control. Hopefully, your situation will be addressed in time because of it, because heaven knows NBC and the IOC are not about to change their ways voluntarily.
@Mario: I completely concur!
@JRC: Wow! How bad do Americans look now? And rightfully so. I hadn’t seen that; thanks for sharing (she says, cringing)
@Mel: Thanks for the comments here too I’m not sure, but I think Sammy may have been referring to this article…? Yes, London… let’s hope we can pirate a reliable BBC feed by then. Of course, it would be nice to watch it on HD, on my giant flat screen TV…but I’d settle for decent internet coverage if NBC was my only other choice!

16. Elizabeth B - February 20, 2010

Unfortunately, NBC has gotten its highest Winter Olympic ratings in Vancouver since the early 90s. And money talks, you’re right. As long a the ratings (and money) keep pouring in, NBC and the IOC will turn a deaf ear to the public’s complaints.

17. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 20, 2010

@Elizabeth: Yes, it’s true these Olympics have gotten higher ratings but I wonder if that will be true during Week 2? For one thing, all the other networks have generally been showing re-runs of their shows, essentially handing their audience share over to NBC. But you know, maybe they’ll reconsider, what with the public unhappiness over NBC? It would be great if they realize their mistake next week and broadcast good TV to compete. I would LOVE to see a ratings slide at NBC. I seriously can’t be the only one who has stopped bothering to watch the Olympics halfway through the first week.

Pattie Kaiser - February 22, 2010

Not to worry, Lynn! Even if the ratings don’t take a nose dive in Week 2, they surely will right after the Games are over. There’s only 12 people that ACTUALLY WATCH NBC!!!!!!

18. Chandler - February 20, 2010

@Lynn: yes, the internet thing is absolutely true. It may not be as widely known as the TV coverage issue (since I’m guessing that people without TV of any sort are in the vast minority in this country), but it’s definitely true. At first I couldn’t figure out why no online videos came up when I did a search. Then I went to various Canadian and European sites that offered streaming video, only to discover that my American IP address had been blocked from accessing the video (try it yourself! Go to ctvolympics.ca and try to view it!)—I’d have to try an illegal proxy server, which I’m not going to risk, to see any foreign streams. And on the NBC website, you have to fill out an elaborate questionnaire to prove your paid affiliation with either an NBC/Comcast internet provider or one that has signed an agreement with them (and you can’t lie, because they check your IP address).

The whole internet-blocking issue is completely ridiculous, and precisely the kind of thing that happens in China, except here it’s centered around the almighty dollar rather than politics. But corporate totalitarianism doesn’t often make the headlines.

19. Melanie - February 20, 2010

Duh… Of course he was referring to this article… My bad. The BBC has a fabulous service called iPlayer, where you can stream all kinds of British programs on your computer, but it detects where you are located and will not stream to a US computer. I’ve tried. It would be fantastic to have access to more than just BBC America, and especially for sports coverage like this. Part of me is dreading seeing how the soccer World Cup is going to be covered in June…

20. Melanie - February 20, 2010

As for the high ratings… NBC has the monopoly! If you want to watch, you have to watch them. Of course they have high ratings, they’re the only game in town! It’s like being forced to buy concert tickets from Ticketmaster…. And don’t get me started on THEM…

21. Alyssa - February 21, 2010

Oh yes, yes, yes. But you forgot to mention A) The incessant and insulting Dreamworks segments “imagining the past Olympics” in Dragon time as promotion for their new film. B) The fact that MSNBC (my previous web homepage that I can’t go to until the Olympics are over) has all the results on the home page, making it impossible not to see the results if you’re still starry-eyed enough to want to watch the coverage. Really, how hard is it to put a link on the front page? I have yet to stay awake to see the events that I want to see, much less the medal ceremonies. It’s just a mockery. So sad.

22. Robin - February 21, 2010

I agree with all 10 as well but even more since when did curling become so important in the US? It seems like every time I tune in throughout the day they are showing curling. They run the curling and then tune into to a hockey game already in progress. How about mixing it up a bit?

23. Juan Valdez - February 21, 2010

Great post. And I truly feel your frustrations. As a Canadian, we typically shy away from self-praise, but in my opinion, CTV has done an exceptional job of covering these games. Typically they run at least 3 live feeds all day, covering a variety of events (to completion), some of which have no Canadian entrants.

I particularly feel bad for folks in the Seattle are, who are about 2 hours south of Vancouver and cannot get a decent live feed from NBC.

I follow #nbcsucks & #nbcfail on Twitter and the anti-NBC emotions are viral.

Hopefully another US network will get exclusive broadcast rights for 2012 in London.

All the best …

24. Laurie London - February 21, 2010

Lynn and everyone,
I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m in the Seattle area, less than 3 hours from some of the venues, and I have yet to see any live coverage. It’s so dang frustrating. And I just about lost it when I saw that stupid fluff piece they forced Mary Carillo to do. I really enjoy her reporting on Real Sports, but that Canadian Mountie segment was such an idiotic waste of time, especially when you think they could’ve been broadcasting one of the events instead. And don’t get me started on the Colbert/Costas back and forth. Is that supposed to be funny? Do they think we tune in to watch that? Uh no. I’m tuning in to watch the Winter Friggin’ Olympics. The only thing that’s saving my sanity is my trusty DVR.

25. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 21, 2010

@Chandler: You’re right about it being like in China. How do we justify that? It seems like a First Amendment right may be violated with how they cut our feeds. Quite seriously, that is something to think about.
@Melanie: Yes, like what Chandler said, they know your location and refuse to stream to you if you’re in the United States.
@Alyssa: I feel you. I’m tired of Meg Whitman ads too (I’m in Calif where she’s running for governor and it seems like her ads are every other commercial break). Let’s face it: there’s NO WAY to avoid Olympics results. Spoilers are all over Twitter, Facebook, the TV news, and any news web page you go to. Even NBC, as some people have pointed out, is doing its own spoilers. It’s insane.
@Robin: Yes, curling during the day. Yet: today when the USA and Canada were playing hockey (a big game!) they relegated it to MSNBC and didn’t even show it on NBC — on a Sunday even!
@Juan: I have another Canadian friend who agrees with you… she’s aware how much better (and that’s SUCH an understatement) CTV is. As far as Seattle: not only do they not get a decent live feed: They don’t get a live feed at all. And yes, I’ve seen the Twitter feeds too… I wish NBC would pay attention to it.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

26. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 21, 2010

Readers: Here’s another piece of news too, pertaining to all this.

My husband was watching ESPN this morning and caught a piece with the NHL commissioner (I think) who said that the league pretty much shuts down during these two weeks because it sends so many of its best players to the Olympics. But they may not be doing that in future Olympics… shutting down OR sending their players.

Why? He said NBC has done such a miserable job and not shown ONE hockey game on NBC during the Olympics (not even the big Canada vs. USA game today). Since the league’s players are all but hidden away on MSNBC it’s not giving the league or its players any exposure, and of course the NHL loses money by catering to the Olympics schedule.

So — as a direct result of NBC — the USA’s 2014 hockey team may be made up of amateurs again.

I haven’t verified this information myself, but it’s secondhand information based on a good source 🙂

Pattie Kaiser - February 22, 2010

Lynn, I remember when ALL athletes participating in the Olympics WERE AMATEURS!! I kinda miss the old days. You know….”The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat” (along with that poor ski jumper who kept wiping out off the bottom of the ski jump?!!!) I believe ABC was doing the COMPLETE (and I do mean comlete!) coverage of the Olympics back then. THAT’S what they need to bring back.

27. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - February 21, 2010

@Laurie, I apparently missed your post (didn’t hit refresh on my screen… sorry!). To respond: If NBC is determined to show its coverage as a Sports Center-style highlight reel, the least they could do is cut out all the time wasting crap. I agree. They’ve devoted next to no time on showing the public any Olympic coverage, and then they clog what they show with these stupid features, shallow bios, music videos (!!), Colbert things… You know, if they showed coverage all day, these things would be fine. But time is precious, and every minute they waste on the fluff is time taken away from actually seeing sporting events. I agree!

28. Howard Rourke - February 21, 2010

Who has opinions about NBC’s refusal to broadcast the USA/Canada hockey game on (publicly available, HD capable) NBC?

Who else tried to stream the hockey game from the NBCOlympics.com website, only to find out the NBC requires you to enter your userid and password for your cable TV provider, and blocks you from seeing the game if you don’t sign up for a premium Cable package?

Anyone else able to watch the game as it was broadcast live, on public TV and the Internet, in every other country in the world?

IF you are hacked about how the greed of a few executives (Dick Ebersol/Jeff Zucker) at NBC have ruined a 2000 year old tradition of amateur athletic competition and destroyed the patriotism of supporting Team USA, please join me in contacting the FCC at: http://www.fcc.gov/contacts.html

NBC should be banned from bidding on televising the Olympics. Zucker and Ebersol should be fired.

Mario John Borgatti - February 22, 2010

NBC counted the US team out. If they had know they were going to beat Canada they would have live shot it!

29. Pattie Kaiser - February 22, 2010

Olympics, Day 11:
My brain is now totally numb due to OVER-ADVERTISING and the Olympic Games….COMPETITION IN 10 SECOND SPURTS!!!!! AND IT’S MY OWN FAULT!!!!!
And the really sad part is….in 6 1/2 hours, THE TORTURE STARTS AGAIN!!!! ( I HATE ICE DANCING!!!) So, for now, I’m going to go sit on the floor in the corner…..and drool until 8pm! OMG, I’M HOOKED AND INSANE!!! I’VE GONE POSTAL!!!! AARRGGHHHH!!!!!! (I need help……..
sombody…..anybody…….please, make it stop!!!)

30. Gaucho - February 22, 2010

Not sure if anybody has heard this news, but it was stated on ESPN on Sunday, that the NHL may not participate in 2014. Barry Melrose stated that there is nothing in it for the NHL. None of the games have been televised on NBC, they have been showed on CNBC and not in primetime. They shut down their sesason for 2 weeks to accomodate the games, and get nothing out of it. A part of letting these pro players miss 2 weeks, is also to get their league some exposure. NBC is doing a real good job in turning off everybody to these games.

31. Pattie Kaiser - February 22, 2010


Mario John Borgatti - February 22, 2010

That’s got to be worse than water boarding! You should send that thought to the CIA. They might get some results with that technique, that is until it’s outlawed by the administration.

Pattie Kaiser - February 22, 2010

I totally agree!!!!! Watch out, enemy combatants! We’re gonna make you watch NBC’s Olympic coverage!!! LOL!!!

32. Pattie Kaiser - February 22, 2010


33. Melanie - February 22, 2010

(Small voice)… I actually like the AFLAC duck commerical… However, I’m sick of the rest of them, and adverts every other minute. Didn’t appreciate the interview with Michael Phelps, the Olympic SWIMMING champion of Summer Olympic fame, in the midst of the winter Olympics… And the relevance of Michael Phelps in the winter Olympics is?? And to think NBC cut away from ski jumping to carry this oh so relevant and important interview with a swim champion two years after he won his Olympic medals in a completely different sport and venue…

Pattie Kaiser - February 23, 2010

I like the AFLAC duck commercial, too, Melanie….just not EVERY 10 MINUTES OVER THE COURSE OF 4-5 HOURS PER NIGHT!!!!!
I totally agree with you about the Michael Phelps interview! They break away from ski jumping (one of my favs), to waste another half hour on an INTERVIEW???!!! WITH A SUMMER GAMES ATHLETE???? BECAUSE HE HAPPENED TO BE THERE???!!!! (My mind snapped AGAIN at this point, and the drooling started all over again…..BUT NOW I’VE DEVELOPED A TWITCH TO GO ALONG WITH THE DROOLING!!!)
I didn’t think NBC could get any crappier than they are, but, once again, THEY PROVED ME WRONG! Nothing But Crap!!!! I’ll never make it through this final week with my sanity intact…….

34. Tiphanie Benoit - February 23, 2010

Right on! Right on! Right on! And I thought it was just me being a crab about the commercials and jumping around from one event to another! For God’s sake, what is WRONG with people? (oh never mind…I remember…moneymoneymoneymoney…)

I hope someone saves the London Olympics from the same woeful fate.

35. Lynn Christiansen Esquer - February 23, 2010

Hey everybody, for the follow-up to this article, please follow this shortlink (Chandler, you inspired it… thanks): http://wp.me/pNEzn-2a


36. anon - March 10, 2010
37. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - March 10, 2010

Anonymous…. thanks for the heads up. I’m on it…. thanks for letting me know and for calling the other blogger on it, too 🙂

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