The Cord on Sports: Has NBC heard of this Internet thing?


(Graphic by Adele Palmquist).

The other day I had the “brilliant” idea to write a blog about how the media have covered this summer’s Olympics. Unfortunately, Bruce Dowbiggin beat me to the punch in Monday’s Globe and Mail.

Dowbiggin does a good job saying what we’re all thinking, but I’d like to highlight two things. First: thank you Bruce for reaffirming my belief — a belief that should be commonly held — that not all former athletes can be broadcasters. For the most part the Olympic coverage from TSN, CTV and Sportsnet has been great. A glaring weak spot, however, has been the blatant homerism and just plain bad commentating from the slew of former Olympians the broadcasting consortium has hired on as “analysts”.

As Dowbiggin put it: “In the hurly-burly of breaking events, analysis has too often been replaced by a noxious mix of cheer-leading and banal self-realization pap.”

The other important point Dowbiggin raises — and something that has been one of the hottest topics of Twitter throughout the Olympics — is NBC’s, let’s call it “questionable”, decision not to air events live, better known in the social media world as #NBCFail. By now we all know the story, because of the time difference between Great Britain and North America (specifically the Eastern Time Zone of course), NBC is saving its marquee events for prime time, presenting them in highly-edited packages with interviews spliced in and the fat (i.e. most action that doesn’t involve Team U.S.A.) considerably trimmed.

The problem with this is obvious: in today’s world of instantaneous information, everyone will already know the results of the events NBC is saving for its prime time lineup, so what’s the point of watching?

But some how, NBC’s ratings haven’t turned out to be the disaster that so many had predicted, the disaster that would have made perfect sense.

While this means NBC’s decision was a success from a business perspective, let’s keep in mind that TV ratings are one of the most flawed systems out there, especially when it comes to measuring the quality of what people are watching. After all, this is the same system that time after time names Two and Half Men the “Number One Show on TV” and resulted in the near cancelling of Community.

So while people seem to still be watching NBC’s pre-packaged, tape delayed Olympics coverage, it doesn’t mean they made the right choice in abandoning live broadcasts. For one thing, this kind of thing has happened.

But more pathetic than that, are we really going to let NBC get away with having poor Brian Williams say “Spoiler Alert” before revealing the day’s results on the news, two hours before their coverage starts? These are newscasts of one of the most well-known networks in the world and they’re telling us to mute or change the channel for a few seconds? Has NBC heard of the Internet?

(Yes, Jon Stewart summed this all up pretty well last week, but thanks to Hulu not being available in Canada, it was quite difficult to find a video).

So kudos to the Canadian broadcasters for making the logical choice and giving us live coverage of the Olympics. As for NBC, let’s just hope that this is the last time we’ll have to sit through a “spoiler alert” Olympics.


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