Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NBC's Olympic Coverage

How would you rate NBC's Olympic coverage? First, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics, on a daily basis, from the breathtaking opening ceremonies, all the way through the closing ceremonies, covering more than two weeks, the latter half which found me recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery, which did provide me with one (and only one) noticable benefit: Instead of skipping the nightly prime-time marquee events, since they were on way too late for one whose alarm clock goes off at 3:55am, I was able to stay up as late as I wanted during the second week of the Games.

Overall, I'd give NBC a grade of A- if you live in a midwestern or eastern time zone, and a B- if you live in a western time zone. If you live in a mountain time zone, I'm not sure what the grade would be, because I'm not sure whether you were the victim of the same inexcusably lame delayed telecasts every night (as we were on the west coast), or not. This leads me to assess what was negative about NBC's coverage:

DELAYED PRIME-TIME COVERAGE: Many of the marquee events took place after 7 or 8pm Pacific time, but we did not get to see them live, because NBC delayed the west coast feed by three hours, so that we'd see those marquee events after 10 or 11pm. In other words, eastern and midwestern time zone viewers saw the events live after 10 or 11pm. We could have seen them live as well, after 7 or 8pm, but NBC determined that it could make more money from its advertisers by delaying the Pacific time telecast by three hours, because there would be more viewers very late in the evening than there would be mid-evening.

I don't question NBC's research on this. I'm confident they're correct. However, I still find that a pathetic excuse for delaying the telecast of some of the biggest events from the Olympic games, for millions of viewers who happen to live in the western United States. Yes, I enjoyed seeing those events during the second week of the Games, while I was at home, icing my knee. But each and every time, I knew the results in advance, because like most sports fans, I like to know what happened, when it's happening, which is why NBC has no legitimate excuse, in my opinion, for unnecessarily delaying big-time sports events.

Does NBC, or any other network, delay coverage of the Super Bowl, the World Series, the US Open tennis or the Masters? Of course not. They wouldn't give a second thought to delaying the telecast of any major sports event in the world, unless a live telecast would mean something like 2am stateside. This was hardly the case from Beijing. But for some reason, NBC looks at the Olympic Games as something other than a major sports event. Bottom line--there's no excuse, and I like to think NBC will not attempt to pull off a similar charade in four years from London, because the ease with which we'll be able to circumvent those delayed telecasts via the internet may be so plentiful that NBC wouldn't dare. Let's hope so.

JINGOISTIC ANALYSIS: Fortunately, I didn't hear it often. Unfortunately, Tim Daggett and Bela Karolyi were insufferable during the women's gymnastics competition, constantly complaining about the judges' scoring, and how it (allegedly) favored the Chinese, and downgraded the Americans. Spare me. Please. Is there sometimes bias in judges' scoring? Of course. It happens in gymnastics and figure skating, as we all know, because it's subjective scoring, and try as they all might, it's inevitable that personal bias will occasionally enter into the scoring, with certain judges. But to suggest that there's some kind of conspiracy to deprive an American gymnast of what she deserves is ludicrous. Moreover, it feeds into the all-too-ugly jingoistic attitude that is all-too-common in America today. Case in point: A colleague here at KCBS approached me after the women's gymnastics team competition, and complained about the judges scoring, saying it was obvious that the Americans got ripped off. I asked him if he were an experienced and sophisticated watcher of gymnastics, such that he could easily determine when a gymnast got blatantly lower (or higher) marks than she deserved. He said not at all, that he knows little if anything about the nuances of gymnastics, but that "this is what the NBC announcers said." See my point?

LIVE, FROM OUR NBC STUDIOS IN NEW YORK CITY: This was a little weird. The play-by-play announcers and analysts for certain events (softball, baseball and soccer, among them) were not sent to Beijing, but rather to NBC's studios in New York City, where they watched their assigned events on flatscreen high-definition monitors, and did the play-by-play and analysis from there. They did a great job, I think--JP Delcarmen (soccer) and Joe Castellano (softball) among them. But that's a tough job, asking these announcers to call the game via a monitor, where Delcarmen was unable to see many plays developing, and where Castellano was unable to see where the outfielders were positioned, not to mention many other helpful things they missed. But why, for example, did NBC send Bob Fitzgerald to Beijing to announce water polo, but keep JP Delcarmen in New York City to announce soccer? Isn't soccer more popular than water polo???

OTHERWISE: I think NBC did a great job, the above nitpicking aside. The play-by-play was generally superb, the analysis was strong, the interviews with athletes immediately after events was consistent, the features on athletes was informative without being overly-dramatic as in the past, the videography was exceptional, particularly on high-definition.   In addition, Bob Costas was superb as the prime-time studio host.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

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