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Rant Redux: 10 Reasons Why NBC Should Lose Its Olympic Broadcast Rights; Or “How I Learned To Hate The Coolest Sporting Event In The World” July 27, 2012

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

As I’m writing this, it’s 11:30 at night in San Francisco, where only now, during the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, the broadcast of the Parade of Nations is ending. This will go on at least until midnight, forcing my 11-year-old and me to stay up very late to watch the torch being lit in London. But for the Olympics? Of course we do it.

Only… it didn’t have to be this way. The Opening Ceremonies in London actually began nearly 11 hours ago. Presumably, the rest of the world watched live. But here in the United States? NBC, the broadcaster with the exclusive rights to carry Olympic coverage in the United States, was broadcasting “We the People with Gloria Allred,” “The People’s Court”  and other such daytime television gems. Here on the Pacific Coast, we are among the last people in the world to be allowed to see it happen.

Once again, Americans are being prevented from watching live coverage of the Olympics. NBC, the FCC and the IOC have conspired to plug any Internet hole that would allow us to circumvent their barriers. Instead, tonight we were given blandly executed “interview packages” interspersed among the ceremony coverage, which was then crammed with commercial interruptions. Unable to join the rest of the world in real-time participation this afternoon, we turned to Twitter, where NBC was live tweeting the ceremony that it refused to broadcast live. Now? No surprises left.

Adding insult to injury, although NBC has had nine hours before we on the West Coast were allowed to watch it, apparently little helpful editing happened. Despite NBC’s insistence that the ceremonies “required context,” for American viewers before they could see them, mostly all I could see was the editing out of chunks of the ceremony while the network indulged in commercial breaks and filler. We missed four or five countries at a time in the Parade of Nations, for example — not exactly helping Americans with their notorious lack of grasp of world knowledge. Since we’re on tape delay, couldn’t we have seen all the countries walking? Yeah… that would be “no.”

And all the while we have endured inane chatter by NBC color commentators Meredith Vieira, Bob Costas and Matt Lauer, who went around blithely mispronouncing names of people and places, failing to understand who some people were, and making helpful “contextual” observations like ‘Djibouti’s name makes me smile‘ and that Rwanda has bounced back nicely from its genocidal “troubled past.”

Two-and-a-half years ago, I bemoaned NBC’s handling of the Vancouver Olympics. Despite the fact that we share a time zone with British Columbia, we saw nothing — yes, nothing! — from those Games live. I’m not yet sure if we’ll get live coverage this time around either.

Why? Why is it that NBC, the official (i.e. only) broadcaster of the Olympics in the United States, pretends the Olympics aren’t happening until prime time? It’s only Day One, and I’m already disappointed.

Just for fun, check out my post from 2010 about the Vancouver Olympics. It struck a nerve then; I received many thousands of hits, and hundreds of comments. Obviously I wasn’t the only American feeling this way, and I heard from many Canadians and Britons feeling sorry for us (and a bit superior, as well they may). Let’s see if NBC still holds its audience in such contempt this time around.

And meantime, as it nears midnight, the delayed broadcast continues in full force. If we had watched live, we could have seen the torch being lit at a reasonable 5 pm.

Tell me your thoughts! Does anyone else find this ridiculous?!

UPDATE: Saturday morning, after I wrote this post, I discovered I had missed something big. NBC edited out a performance during the Opening Ceremonies that has been interpreted by many people as a tribute to victims of the terrorist attacks that rocked London in 2005. In its place, we got to watch an insipid, non-revelatory taped interview between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps.

James Poniewozik of Time magazine noted, “…A tribute to the missing seems like precisely the most sensitive section of a ceremony to edit out. And besides that, given the stranglehold NBC maintains on content for an event its audience has a massive interest in, why edit anything out? It may have been a long ceremony, as they always are, but there was plenty of time to air (the tribute)…” Which means that NBC’s contextual interpretation was that Americans don’t and shouldn’t care about a terrorist event because it didn’t involve Americans. Well isn’t that nice…

If you’d like to see it, you can view it here instead because Lord knows, NBC will never show it to you.

I guess we should be grateful that they’re showing ANY live coverage at all during the day this time around… even if you have to get most of it on your computer — provided that you’re a cable or satellite television customer. But NBC is proving all over again that its commitment to the American people is less important than… oh, pretty much anything else.



1. Mesceille - July 28, 2012

Lynn, you are spot on. Because of the timing, I was having a family dinner away from home, and when I did get home, I ran errands like I usually do, did chores (aka laundry), checked in on my computer, and finally told Kurt to record the whole thing so that I can watch at a later time more convenient to sit for 5 hours! Ha! Guess I’ll have to wake up at 2am, watch a couple hours at a time, and drink a pot of coffee before I get to work…shhh..don’t the kids.

2. Fuming in Seattle - July 28, 2012

I totally agree with you. I am hopping mad….AGAIN….at how narrow-minded, greedy, and American-centric NBC is. Blocking all our other options to watch an international event like the rest of the world….how is that LEGAL? Where are we, China? To make matters worse this year, we can’t even access their much-touted on-line live coverage because the NBCOlympics site won’t recognize our cable account…5 hours of calls to COMCAST’s help and all they can figure is NBC has an error in their programming. How else can they friggin’ screw up?

3. Lynn Christiansen Esquer - July 29, 2012

Hi Mesceille… yes, ridiculous! Rowan and I sat it out, but I was so angry yesterday afternoon when I knew it was happening. I’m really not sure why NBC couldn’t have aired it twice… once live, and once in the evening.

Thanks for reading, Fuming in Seattle! I agree… it seems to me that blocking any other possible alternative goes against everything we say we hold dear. Sure, we got blow-by-blow coverage from people in other time zones via Twitter and Facebook, and news stories on the Internet. By the time we saw it here on the West Coast, I already knew much of what would happen. Was it the same for you? And this cable/satellite cable thing being the only way you can see live streaming on the Internet… well, that’s just holding people hostage. My heart goes out to you and I hope you have success with Comcast soon…

4. Elson Trinidad (@elsongs) - July 29, 2012

NBC missed out on a great opportunity in two ways:

1) US prime time is 5-8 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, and most of the athletes in London are asleep by then. NBC should have brought on live coverage, with an edited “Best Of Today’s Events” digest coverage during prime time. The people who wanted to see events live can watch them live, and people who want something to see during prime time will have something.

2) This is 2012. EVERYONE HAS DIGITAL TV NOW. In my city, NBC broadcasts on digital channel 4.1. WHY NOT SHOW EVENTS LIVE ON THE OTHER DIGITAL SUBCHANNELS (4.2, 4.3, 4.4 etc)? Hello?!?! The technology exists, use it!

I remember being really pissed off 4 years ago when NBC showed its lame-ass tape-delayed coverage of the Beijing games, while digital channel 4.4 – Universal Sports – showed some really lame pre-pre-prequalifying trials event in Germany taped three months ago. WTF NBC?!?!

NBC has been screwing over American viewers with their sad excuse for Summer Olympics coverage for some 24 years, beginning with Seoul 1988. Korea is 12-15 hours ahead, and NBC made no qualms about the time difference, but we tolerated it, since there was certainly no Internet as we know it back then.

The Los Angeles 1984 Olympics were the last Summer Games broadcast by a network that was not NBC. It was ABC back then, and they broadcast everything LIVE. Their coverage was wonderful. Not only that, but Howard Cosell beats Bob Costas any day.

5. melanieg1 - July 29, 2012

Your first comment was spot on… It doesn’t have to be this way… It is absolutely embarrassing to see a world class country like the US continue to provide such awful, biased, lowest common denominator coverage to its people. I live in the US and suffer through NBC coverage of Olympic events every time, but I grew up in the UK and know how it can be done. You Americans are being conned and cheated and treated like idiots by NBC who routinely dumb down their coverage, assuming the average person can’t think for themselves. I don’t need NBC to tell me what to watch and when! Show the action LIVE and package a wrap up show for prime time. We all have DVRs and Internet these days, NBC… I’ll decide what I want to watch, thanks very much, you patronizing fools. FYI, the BBC is showing live coverage from 6AM to 1AM, and has action on multiple channels as well round the clock. No-one has to wait for the sponsors to get their money’s worth in prime time. The Olympic games are being held to ransom by a network that thinks people are stupid. I despair of America ever wising up and saying ENOUGH. Instead it is tolerated and NBC goes on to the next Olympics and does the same thing again. Time for mutiny on a mass scale.

6. Lynn Christiansen Esquer - July 29, 2012

Elson, I totally agree with all your points. They do seem to be kinda doing #1 (not well, but…) but why it took them until 2012 to do it I can’t say. #2 is so logical it’s no wonder NBC hasn’t thought of it or can’t pull it off.

Melanie: I completely agree (unsurprisingly). And your statement about the Olympics being held ransom by a network that thinks people are stupid is really what it comes down to. We’re just dumb cattle they can sell to the sponsors. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to make a change, but we’re already screwed through 2020. NBC put $4.38 billion (that’s with a “B”) into the IOC’s pocket last year to sew up the deal. Money talks… unfortunately for us.

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