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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.
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6 comments

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.

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