Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NBC's Abyssmal Olympic Coverage

I thought I was fully prepared for NBC's totally embarrassing coverage of the Vancouver Olympic Games. I know Dick Ebersol does not regard the Olympics as anything resembling a sports competition. I know that because I read well before the Games opened last weekend that the president of NBC Sports regards the Olympics as a collection of feel-good stories, and that's why he's completely comfortable with foregoing live coverage of nearly all of the major events, in order to package them as network story-telling during NBC's prime time programming.

That's bad enough, for those of us who actually want to watch the Olympics live, as we are accustomed to watching baseball, football, basketball, tennis, soccer and any other sporting competition you can possibly think of. Would you settle for being deprived of the abilty to watch the Super Bowl or the World Series live? Of course not. And yet Ebersol has compounded the problem for those of us on the west coast, by not only saving and abbbreviating all the major events for prime time coverage, but delaying the Pacific time coverage another three hours. So, while viewers on the east coast saw the conclusion of the pairs figure skating last night at 9pm, we on the west coast didn't see it until midnight. If we were still awake, which few of us were. So, what exactly is NBC's point here, besides trying to make as much money as possible, at the expense of anything resembling integrity?

Well, one objective, apparently, is to confuse the hell out of us. On Saturday, the opening day of the Games, I was at my local health club, burning calories on a cross-trainer at 6pm, while watching NBC. The highly-respected Bob Costas was telling me that NBC would be showing the electrifying short-track speedskating at 8pm eastern time. Yes, that's right. Costas was telling me that I could watch the short-track speedskating at 8pm eastern (5pm Pacific), and he was telling me this at 6pm Pacific. You think Costas is happy about NBC's coverage? I'm guessing he is appalled as I am.

The Games opened Saturday morning at 9, following the opening ceremonies on Friday night. For those under the illusion that NBC might actually use its member networks to offer the Games live for those of us who actually wanted to watch the Games live, this is what you saw, if you tuned in: While NBC was showing the cartoon Three-Two-One Penguin, CNBC was airing Sexy Body Secrets, MSNBC was showing Hooked: Muscle Women, and USA was airing Psych.

On President's Day, the Men's Downhill began at 10:30 Pacific time. But nowhere on your Cable or Direct TV channel lineup was the Men's Downhill to be found. It's as though it weren't happening at all. The Downhill is the most exciting of all the Alpine ski events. Surely, millions would love to have been able to watch the entire two hours of the Downhill. But, thanks to NBC, the Downhill was reduced to about 20 minutes of taped coverage, nearly a half-day later. More than 60 skiers competed. We saw no more than six. It's beyond absurd.

Surely, Ebersol could air live coverage of the Games on these NBC cable networks, while saving the packaged story-telling for prime time, on NBC. That way, every viewer would be satisfied--those of us who would love to be able to watch the Olympics live, day and night, and those who don't have such an intense interest in the Games, but still love to catch the highlights, the stories, etc., in prime time. It seems so simple. Put another way: Why is the U.S. the only advanced nation in the world that televises the Olympic Games every two years as though it's a soap opera, designed for viewers who want their Games taped, delayed and on prime time only? Canada doesn't do this, even when the Games aren't originating in Canada!

Ebersol must think it's the Innsbruck Games of 1964 when NBC, ABC and CBS controlled all the commercial airwaves. Instead it's 2010, and NBC should be streaming live coverage of the Vancouver Games all day long.

The fact that NBC is not only NOT televising the major Olympic events live, but is preventing any other entity from showing it live, is unconscionable.

Can't the IOC do anthing about this? Ebersol should be publicly flogged for this. Well, at least figuratively.