NBC needs to get their Olympic coverage right
Remember that age-old story of the muscle-bound beach bully kicking sand in the face of an unsuspecting light-weight? Remember how the sand-showered boy had a hard time deciding what to do, how to respond, and whether it might be best just to shrivel up in a remote corner of the beach to hopefully never have to fight another day? Remember how he was supposed to muscle-up for Round 2?
Well, sports fans, how does that sand feel? Would you like it served up on a sour dough roll with a little mayo? Maybe we can invite in Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, those of beach volleyball fame, to make the sandwich go down just a little more smoothly. No need to floss, better to run for something that might wash it down.
The bad news is that you may be eating a lot of those sandwiches over the next few weeks. You see, in this case the beach bully is NBC. Whether you hail from Medford, Oregon; Cheyenne, Wyoming; or Grass Valley, California, you suffer from the same judo chop to the stomach, punch to the jaw, sand face-wash.
Those of us in the Pacific and Mountain time zones are resigned to watching the biggest spectacle in sports, the Olympics, on a delay basis. If you live in Rochester, New York or Peoria, Illinois, you are in luck. You get it live, direct, in many cases as it is happening.
However, for those of us in the west, retreat to a cave for the next few weeks. No searching the internet. No watching a competitive network. Stay away from the evening news. Keep your radio turned off. Even be careful when turning the pages of the paper. If you want to see it on a “first time” basis, you must wait your three hours until NBC (renamed by some “No Body Cares”) decides to serve it up to their western and mountain time zone affiliates.
Sunday’s China/USA basketball game was viewed by the largest audience in basketball history. Billed as a historic event of the “Redeem Team” vs. the Host Country, over one billion people viewed it. In the 117-year history of the sport, it has never experienced such an audience. An event of monumental proportions, featuring Yao Ming vs. the NBA’s best, NBC made the decision to air it at 10:15 PDT instead of its 7:15 PDT actual starting time. The game had ended an hour before it was aired on the West Coast. What a pitiful set of circumstances.
Forget the little “LIVE” sign that appears in the upper right side of many events. Let me share with you a dirty little secret: NONE OF THEM ARE LIVE. We get them three hours late, long after every other news source has tried to give you the results in the hopes of garnering some semblance of an audience for their programming.
Alas, NBC paid almost $900 million for the American rights to broadcast the Bejing Games. They approached the IOC in an attempt to persuade them to schedule some prime events during the America’s evening/prime time hours. NBC assured them that this would draw an impressive audience, that this extraordinary amount of money merited times being changed in Bejing to unusual hours in order to accomodate NBC’s audience.
Now, here is where the sand sandwich on sour dough transitions to a heaping of baloney on wheat. Did the IOC know that the Pacific and Mountain time zones were not in on the deal? We were left to wait our two or three hours in the hopes we would see the likes of Michael Phelps, Mariel Zagunis, Becca Ward and Sada Jaocbson win their medals without knowing the results of three hours prior.
In contrast, the “No Body Cares” network needs to take a lesson from their neighbors to the north, the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). The vast majority of their programming is live. Whether you hail from British Columbia or Newfoundland, all “live” events will be shown live, regardless of time zone. In this age of Technology, kudos to the Canadians who got it right.
And if all of this seems somewhat petty, let’s reflect on a few questions. What would you think if NBC’s crown jewel, the NBA, had the championship series broadcast three hours later in California than New York? What would you think if we got the World Series at a more appropriate time than when it was scheduled to originally air? Seems a little odd … a little absurd … something for which we would not stand. How is this different? I fail to see it.
Yet, I am left to watch Michael Phelps’ Saturday night’s world-record performance with two buddies, in their home theater, knowing that Phelps will deliver the goods. No mystery there. I did not have the nerve to tell them I already knew the results. As odd as it sounded, a monumental event we only enjoy once every four years was already a done deal.
Here is the good news. NBC has a few weeks left to get it right. They still have the room to show this premiere international event nationwise at the same time, regardless of time zone, no matter how inconvenient it might be. They can still prevent us from hiding from the world until such time as they make it available to their red-headed West Coast step children.
The question emerges, can they salvage these games and rescue half of their audience? Can they make the right call? Is the ability present at NBC to do the prudent thing? The answer lies in the week ahead.
Jim Adams, lives in Nevada City, is a regular contributor to The Union, a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.