Thursday, February 25, 2010

NBC's Olympic Failure

Ah, the dawn of a fresh new day, with lots of exciting Olympics events that we and other Americans won't be able to watch LIVE because NBC controls the rights and NBC is the network that prevents us from watching the Olympics.

Instead of ranting again about this, however, we'll just direct some questions to NBC.

As a preface, we should make clear that these are real questions. We don't know the answers. We can't understand why NBC would damage its brand and infuriate sports fans from coast to coast by doing this, so we're really curious about the logic here. We would also be happy to publish the responses.

Six Questions For NBC

1. Why do you delay events that are much more exciting to watch live? Presumably the answer here is "money," but please explain that answer in detail. Please don't say, "to appeal to a wider audience," because no one is arguing that you should be prohibited from putting on your big general interest highlight-reel evening shows. We just want to watch the events live, too.

2. Is the evening audience much bigger than it would be if you showed the events live during the day? How much bigger? Wouldn't you be able to make up the difference by showing the event live on one of your other networks during the day and then showing highlights on NBC at night? Wouldn't you be able to show more targeted advertising (and charge higher CPMs) to audiences for specific events?

3. How much money would you lose (or do you think you would lose) if you showed the events live on a subsidiary network and then showed highlights again in your prime time broadcast? To us, this seems like the best solution. If you did this, sports fans could get their fix, and the "general audience" you're obviously trying to appeal to in prime time with segments on polar bears can watch the "Olympics Show" you put on every night without wanting to throw their remote controls through the TV.

4. Do you expect people to avoid the news all day until you show the events in primetime, or do you not care that everyone knows who won? Is it really realistic/fair to think that, in the era of Twitter, omnimedia, and email alerts that people will be able to go into media blackouts for 8 hours?

5. Is the decision to show events on tape-delay a relic of the days when the Big Three networks ruled the world? Is there some acknowledgment internally that the world has changed a bit since 1976? Does Dick Ebersol watch the Olympics on 8-hour tape-delayed highlight reels?

6. Do you care that sports fans from coast to coast are furious at you? How do you factor this into your long-term brand-value calculations? We, personally, hate you for this. It's possible that we're alone, but based on the feedback we've received, we doubt it. That can't be good for the value of the company, can it? Especially when you make no effort to explain to people like us why you're doing this.

As an additional question, we doubt that there's unanimity within NBC on this decision. We imagine, in fact, that there are hundreds of employees who are appalled by NBC's decision to wreck the Olympics for millions of sports fans, along with its refusal to directly explain to Americans why they may be the only country on earth forced to watch the Olympics on tape delay. If so, we would love to hear from some of the dissenters, as well as from those who can explain the real logic here (because whatever NBC says publicly almost certainly won't).

Thanks in advance.

Yes, we'll watch some of it anyway, which is no doubt what NBC is counting on. But we promise you this. We are going to be cursing NBC all night and for the rest of the Olympics. And in the hope of appealing to something NBC does apparently care about, we're also going to be cursing NBC's advertisers.

Coke? Screw you. I hold you responsible for this, too.

VISA? Go to hell.

Procter & Gamble? I'll do everything I can to avoid buying Tide for the next four years.

10 Reasons Why NBC Should Lose Its Olympic Broadcast Rights:

(Adapted from Bloggapalooza - Original Copyright 2010 by the Queen Cunt of the Universe, Lynn Christiansen Esquer... who might actually have a chance at being hot if she'd carve a few inches off that monstrosity she calls a nose.)

1. The commercials are absolutely 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 to 4 minutes of commercials. Throw in time for the talking heads and insipid featurettes, and only half of every hour turns out to be actual Olympic footage.

2. Who at the network decided there would be no live coverage? There is hardly any Olympic coverage at all during the day. No coverage is live on the U.S. West Coast, which is in the same time zone as Vancouver. I watched part of the broadcast of women’s downhill skiing hours after it actually happened. Not only did I already know the outcome (thanks to the internet and the Minneapolis NBC affiliate), but I also knew in advance who took crashed and who took the lead and lost it. There’s no "Thrill of Victory or "Agony of Defeat". Boooorrring.

3. Kids can’t watch the Olympics. NBC insists on showing the Olympics during prime time, delaying all coverage for hours. When prime time starts at 8 p.m., young 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 the kids — I can’t stay up! I’d have loved to have seen Shaun White and Lindsay Vonn receive their gold medals, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open until midnight, when the award ceremonies were broadcast.

5. NBC can't sit still. If they're going to cram a whole day of Olympic coverage into a 4-hour highlight reel, why can't they cover one event completely before launching into the next one? It's ridiculous, they show three skaters compete, then switch to snowboarding, then back again, throwing a few interviews, soundtrack highlights and features in between. This is not live coverage. NBC can’t seem to find its own editing room.

6. The America-centric attitude. Go USA. I feel it. But since it's the Olympics, let us hear about people from around the globe, not just Americans. 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 this network.

7. NBC is obsessed with a select few athletes. Shaun White. Lindsey Vonn. Apolo Ohno. Don't get me wrong, they’re great. But Team USA has 212 other athletes also competing in Vancouver, not to mention the thousands of other Olympians gathered in the Olympic Village in Vancouver. Another blogger came up with a new drinking game: anytime the camera rested on Shaun or Lindsey, take a drink! I guarantee a roomful of passed-out drunks in less than 20 minutes.

8. Insipid stories. Sure, I want to hear about the athletes and what their story is. That’s part of the fun and it brings the human aspect to the Games. But I learned, courtesy of a quite detailed and long feature by the overly masculine Mary Carillo, more than anyone needs to know about polar bears and ecotourism in Manitoba. Now, Churchill, Manitoba is more than 2,000 miles from Vancouver. What did this have to do with the Olympics? Sadly, this is the kind of “coverage” we’re getting every night on NBC.

9. The "interviews" are horrendous. Pedantic, stilted, amateurish.

10. There are no viable alternatives! My friends back home in New York are able to watch CTV live via cable, but that does nothing for those of us who don't live close to the Canadian border. Exhaustive searches have revealed no other alternatives for Americans with the exception of those that live in cities and towns within fifty or so miles of the Canadian border. In those places, most cable companies offer CTV (Canadian Television Network) as part of their basic package, and failing that, a good old-fashioned antenna will pull in CTV's far superior coverage with ease.

The basic problem with NBC's coverage is that they haven't improved the fundamentals of the coverage in spite of massive changes in the way people take in content. The prime-time coverage is largely as it's always been, a few events are heavily showcased, a few other events are shown in an abbreviated format regular viewers instantly recognize as "USA-Plus" (meaning you see the Americans, plus a few other people who are relevant because they either do very well or wipe out spectacularly), and two events - hockey and curling - are shown as complete events, but they're shoved off to cable.

West-coast residents have been incensed that they wait an additional three hours after the East coast gets whatever "live" coverage there actually is in prime time, even though they are in the time zone where the Olympics actually are. What this means is that even if NBC is showing "live" coverage of its big events in New York, which is across the continent from Vancouver, it delays them three hours for Seattle, which is less than three hours south of Vancouver.

Because what NBC perceives to be the high-profile events are frequently shoved into the evening, the ones that happen earlier in the day are dealt a particular blow. This has particularly plagued some of the skiing events, where NBC chooses to sit on the tape of the events for hours and hours, during which time other news outlets inevitably report on them.

This just isn't the way people follow... anything, really, at this point. At one time, you could broadcast events hours after they happened, and you'd have a reasonable chance that people could live in a bubble while they were waiting. That is not the world we live in anymore. The fantasy that is indulged when Bob Costas speaks breathlessly about an upcoming ski race where he already knows exactly what happened is no longer even a fragile fantasy; it's a blatant fiction that everyone knows about.

Naturally, NBC wants to kick the big events into prime-time for ratings reasons, and it's hard to argue with their ratings successes for these Olympics, which have been massive. Nevertheless, they're clinging to a broadcast model that's not only on its last legs - it's on the last toe of the last leg. This isn't Wide World Of Sports - people don't want to wait around for when your big sports show happens to take place.

Self-scheduling is the rule, at this point. It's harder and harder to tell people when they will watch things, and in what form. I can't prove it, but my sense is that part of the reason so many of us have taken to watching curling is that you can see entire matches, without the break-ins from Costas and the cutaways to other sports.

There's probably too much action in a set of Olympics for absolutely everything to be shown top-to-bottom, and perhaps that would be boring, anyway. But if the broadcast networks who cover this stuff don't find a way to stop pretending it's still 1976, where an event happens when the person who owns the broadcast rights tells you it happens, they're going to wind up being left in the dust by whatever manipulator of technology figures out how to do it better.

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.
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See you tomorrow.


  1. Great summary of the many problems with NBC's Olympics broadcast. It's pathetic and infuriating that we have to deal with this.

  2. Internet content is regularly recycled and rewritten.


    Kiss my ass.

  3. Thank you for at last attributing my work to me. I suppose I could point out that:
    1. I don’t actually care if some random asshole in Duluth thinks I’m hot… and by the way, you’re definitely not winning any beauty contests, which is probably why you’re single (well, that and your general attitude);
    2. For all the smack you’ve blogged about me, all I’ve done is civilly ask for attribution, then defend myself against your plagiarism (which makes me a cunt? Well, OK, if standing up for myself makes me a cunt, then I’ll take it as a compliment).
    3. I guess you’re neither as smart or knowledgeable as you think you are, are you? If you have to steal people’s writing, then rely on faulty legal knowledge to back up the theft, then resort to unwarranted personal attacks when you lose… well, you’re not exactly a mental giant, are you?

    Seems to me the rest of your blog post (if it’s actually original and not also stolen) could have stood on its own without my Top Ten, but if my writing makes it that much better, then you’re welcome. ☺

    One final thought: Personal attacks: “The language of nonthought.” — Lionel Trilling. (see, that’s an attribution!)

  4. Actually Lynn, I think I'm going to do an in-depth article about YOU.

    As far as your "civil" behavior is concerned, threatening a frivolous lawsuit is certainly NOT civil.

    For the record, I've 'lost' nothing. All you've done here is give me MORE material.

    As for looks... well, I'm SMOKIN' hot baby. I'd make your toes curl... as long as I could put a bag over your face... or maybe a flag, then I could do it for America.

    I turn you on and you know it... too bad you can't have me.

    Stay tuned sugar... The internet is still the wild west.

    I STILL got what I wanted, and that just kills you. Take the fact that I got a few people to read your tatty little blog that ordinarily wouldn't have... Maybe I should bill YOU for increasing your traffic.

    By the way... I'm not "some random asshole from Duluth".

    I'm a random asshole from MINNEAPOLIS.

    And now you're my number one fantasy girl. You're not that pretty, but I bet you're an ANIMAL in the sack.

  5. Looks like you are the cunt. Your attitude towards everything is out there. I would have to say after this, I am no longer reading your material, as you are not original and not funny. I see that you at one point erased my post, comparing your top ten with hers. Looks like you know how to dish it out, but cannot take it.

    Now you are threatening her when she was obviously in the right. Grow up. It is obvious that you are not a gentlemen, maybe you should learn how to be one. The fact that you are old and single should be telling you something. I don't think Precious would even give you the time of day. Walk away, don't be that stereotypical thug as you are showing you are. Oh yeah, maybe have a little more respect for women. That would probably help with those lonely nights when are watching American Idol with "Johnson" in had.

  6. @ The above commenter:

    You seem to spend an AWFUL lot of time reading and commenting on a blog that you keep saying that you will 'no longer read".

    Make up your mind troll.

    Either stop reading, or shut the fuck up.