If It’s The Olympics Then Here Comes The Coverage Complainers

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image of NBC's 2012 London Olympics logoThe 2012 Summer Olympics started this week in London. NBC is the broadcasting rights holder for the United States. It announced that it would provide 5,535 hours of coverage of the London Olympics over the various NBC/Universal channels and for the first time comprehensive streaming on the NBC Olympics website. But starting with the opening ceremonies the complainers have started complaining about the coverage. They do make some points but a couple of the major complaints are wrong headed.

Tape Delay

Even with 5,535 hours of coverage NBC is holding the coverage of the marquee events – like swimming, track and field – for the prime time on the east coast (8 PM to 12 AM). That means nothing will be live since the east coast time difference with the UK is 4 hours. NBC decided not to show those events when they occur and won’t allow them to be seen online until after the prime time airing.

NBC also showed the Opening Ceremony on tape delay for the same reason they delay the big events.

I get that they want the best events to be shown during the most expensive advertising time on TV. They paid over a $1 billion dollars for the rights and they will lose money but by doing tape delay on the major sports they can make that loss a bit less.

NBC isn’t the only one who have delayed events for later broadcast. The great ice hockey victory over the USSR in 1980 was not shown live by ABC. It was shown during prime time. Of course back then it was harder to learn the result before the broadcast.

In the era of the Internet and Twitter it’s ridiculous to delay coverage to prime time and no one finds out the results. When Lochte beat Phelps in swimming I got a text alert from CNN when it happened hours before NBC showed it during prime time.

If people are able to watch it live, they may still watch it again later in the evening or maybe they work and can’t see it live so they watch it at home in the evening.

When I learned that a local person won gold in synchronized diving, I still watched the tape that evening when it was shown. (I dispute that synchronized diving is actually a sport but that is another post for another time… LOL)

What gets me is NBC’s rights fees make up over half of the total the IOC gets in broadcast fees. Maybe if they paid less or another broadcaster paid less then there wouldn’t be such a need to do tape delays for prime time since their wouldn’t be a need to cover the losses.

The Olympics is like a loss leader in a grocery store. They know they will lose money but they use it to showcase their fall TV shows and other events coming up. It’s a $1 billion advertising campaign for the 2012-2013 TV season.

Biased coverage

People complain that NBC focuses on the US team too much at the expense of other performances by other countries. This complaint totally confuses me. NBC is the broadcaster for the United States so of course they focus on Team USA. The BBC focuses on the UK Olympians and the other broadcasters focus on their home athletes.

The video is produced by the International Olympic Committee through the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). It isn’t NBC’s cameras. They use the provided video and add their own commentators. It does decide what video to show but that video isn’t produced by them. The same thing happens with F1 racing where the F1 organization owns and produces the video and it is provided as a pool to regional broadcasters like SPEED and the BBC.

During the men’s gymnastics team finals on Monday night even after the US was out of contention, NBC’s coverage didn’t lessen. It covers the events however they turn out.

I do agree that focusing on only a few marquee events in prime time is pretty sad. Again I get why they do it but it leaves out the people who don’t have cable and other athletic performances that are just as intriguing.

I remember when ABC showed Wide World of Sports and ESPN showed other sports besides baseball, basketball, and football.


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