NBC’s Coverage of the Olympics- Vancouver 2010

So the XXI Olympic Winter Games are here.  5 days of competition have passed.  So far I must say I enjoyed the various competitions.  I watched Men’s downhill, all of the Nordic skiing races combined, cross country and biathlon), most of the luge, most of the speed skating, short track, snowboard cross.  I caught a couple of hockey games, hell I even watched curling and figure skating.  All that on top of the opening ceremony.  Yes I have no life and have a lot of time on my hands.  I enjoy the Olympics, a lot, and I try to watch as much as I can.  And as you can see I do watch a lot.  However I had to watch a lot of it on my computer, and not in HD on my big screen plasma.  And I had to watch it on an illegal feed too.  All because of the pathetic coverage NBC provides.  And its all their fault too.  Even their coverage on their website sucks ass.  In 2008 during the Beijing Summer Games NBC had very good coverage of  many events on their website, many live, all in full from qualifying to the final.  It was great, I stayed up into late at night watching the games on my computer.  But not now.  Now my choices are either hockey or curling.  Most other sports are not available live because they are or will be shown on television.

NBC and its sister networks are devoting a lot of hours to their coverage of the games.  That is great.  However the coverage is just plain horrible.  Absolutely pathetic.  They do show a lot of figure skating (gymnastics in the Summer Games).  And that’s it.  Every other sport gets partial to no coverage.  The coverage on CNBC, MSNBC and USA Network is much better than the NBC coverage.  But its still is cut with many commercials and breaks to try to make the games more “interesting” as if the competition itself was not compelling enough.  On Monday NBC did not show Men’s downhill live.  They waited for their prime-time coverage.  They showed it long after it was over.  They showed 6 or 7 of the downhill runs.  That is out of 64.  Yes, 64 athletes raced, only for NBC to show about 10% of it.  Thankfully I was able to watch it on the net, in full.  In the meantime I was able to learn that the day before a Canadian won the gold medal on his home soil.  It was exciting the day before, but frankly I did not need to be reminded of it again.  But I was, on numerous occasions.  I was also able to learn (for the 5th time) that the Chinese gold winning figure skating pair, is old, they really want the gold, they came back after retiring, they are married, they eat in the cafeteria, and sleep in a dorm.  I also learned how much their coach sacrificed to help China to its glory.  Its nice that I was able to learn all these things.  I feel more informed now.

But there is a small problem with all this.  I don’t need to fucking hear this 5 times, I am not that dumb.  And for all the “compelling” stories, I am one of those weirdos that actually watches the Olympics for the sport.  Yes, sport, not stories the should be confined to Oprah.  I don’t really care who had bad teeth, tough childhoods, sick grandmothers, a puppy that died, a cold, and ingrown toenail, or even cancer.  Call me heartless but I do NOT care.  If you can fit all this information while showing me sport then great.,  If you can’t then don’t.  I like them already, really.  I am a fan.  I love sport, and I really love the Olympics.  I really care for them as athletes.  I already am a fan of the US competitors (and Poles of course).  I already cheer for them.  And no matter how tough a life a Russian had and how I might feel for him or her, I wont be cheering for them.  I might like their performance enough to appreciate and be glad they won cause they were the best.  But not because NBC tells me to like them for some reason unrelated to sport.

But on Monday NBC outdid itself.  While they had no time to show more than 6 or 7 downhill runs, or show more than a few of the Men’s Snowboard Cross races, or much of the Men’s Speed skating 500m runs, or even a lot of the silly figure skating.  They did find time to show us a feature on polar bars.  Yes, fucking polar bears.  Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful animals that I love watching.  But I have other channels for that, and no 5 minute feature with an annoying NBC employee will get me more interested.   It gets worse.  While not having any time to show more of the aforementioned events  they found time for Bob Costas, in the studio, to talk about the figure skating with some guy who won it 50 years ago.  That is on top of the three announcers they have in the skating arena.  And yes, it gets even worse than that.  NBC found time to show Bob Costas and the very unfunny and frankly clueless, American Football announcer Cris Collinsworth.  In the time they spent cracking poor jokes and showing some dumb feature, and pointing to the fact that Cris is clueless about most things non NFL, they could have shown a few races.  Earlier that day USA (I think it was USA) cut off the Women’s 10K cross-country coverage to spend a few minutes to talk about the weather.  Yes.  The weather.  Absolute madness.  Oh and did you know that Lindsay Vonn’s shin hurts?  I do, I am reminded of it 5 times per day, every day.

But no, NBC feels compelled to do this crap.  And its gets worse every Olympics.  I understand commercial breaks, they did pay a lot of money for the privilege to show the Games.  But this is just plain unacceptable.  And this is not a new criticism.  NBC I am sure receives many letters and emails with complaints, yet they persist in this.  How?  Why?  I do not understand.  I am already dreading the London 2012 games because I fear it will be even worse than this as it is every Games.  I am not one of those people who want to watch every thing for free.  I am willing to pay for something if its good and provided to me.  I don’t want to watch this on some illegal poor quality feed on the internet.  For the Barcelona 1992 Games, NBC did something great.  They had 3 pay channels devoted to the Olympics.  Red, White and Blue channels.  However they lost money on those as people were not willing to pay hundreds of dollars for Olympic coverage.  I was out of the country for most of the games.  But I got back home right before the final weekend.  So I ordered the weekend coverage.  If I remember correctly it was $50, it was well worth it.  3 channels, full coverage, no commercials.  But as I mentioned, it lost them money and we heard of it no more.

I do not know how these things work, but these days there are many options to provide us coverage, either on television or the internet.  But I am sure the NBC brianiacs can think of a profitable and good way to show us the Olympics.  Whether through new temporary channels, pay per view or commercial channels, or both.  Or a paid internet service even.  I would pay, I want to pay, I want to watch the Olympics.  Not the shit they are showing now.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m most bothered by the medalitis NBC has. Like you, I’d rather watch a sport from start to conclusion rather than jump around to different “this one is for the medal” finals. IMHO, sport presentation in the USA has degraded over the past 30 years, it’s become about creating entertainment rather than allow the sport to entertain us.

  2. Very much agree Woody. Most “American” sports allow for enough breaks to cover the commercials and the silly soap opera crap. World sport does not. And the US media does not know how to deal with it properly. So they destroy it by creating false drama and banking on our presumed very short attention spans. 5 minutes of skiing, five minutes of luge, 5 minutes of skating and so on. In between we get soap opera, interviews and adverts. Its sensory overload. Too much different information in a short period of time. They show 5 or 6 different sports in just a few hours and after a day or so we forget what we have seen. Not enough to enjoy the moment, for that a true appreciation of each sport is needed, and that can not be attained in 5 minutes of coverage, even if supported by 20 minutes of stories.


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