Overwhelming Outrage About NBC’s Winter Olympics Coverage Should Move IOC To End Exclusive TV Rights Deals
February 17, 2010 29 Comments
COMMENTARY: The criticism and outrage about NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver is both overwhelming and pervasive. The time has come to end exclusive television broadcast rights for a single television network here in the United States.
LOS ANGELES — As the heavy criticism of NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia gets louder and more overwhelming, if that’s possible, it is clear that the time has come for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee, assuming they have a say in the matter, to end the exclusive broadcasting deal with NBC for future Olympic Games.
Indeed, the criticism of NBC’s coverage has been vehement and unending since these Games began. But with their piece-meal, tape-delayed coverage of the Games, despite the fact that they are in Vancouver—not only in the same hemisphere as the United States, but also the same continent—NBC has no one to blame but themselves.
It seems rather obvious that, even though they are broadcasting the Games on their affiliates across the country and on USA Network, CNBC and MSNBC, NBC is unwilling to preempt a significant number of their shows during the day on any of their channels so that they could air live coverage.
That decision has left a foul taste in the mouths of many Olympic fans.
“It’s frustrating,” said Erin Norton, 33, of Gilbert, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. “NBC pays a ton of money to have exclusive coverage and it’s on the same continent. The coverage they could have had for these Olympics would have blown all the other channels out of the water. They could show so many events live during the day on CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network and the local NBC station.”
“Yet they show things tape-delayed and if they show three hours during the day on NBC, then it’s a good day,” added Norton. “Instead, we’re still subjected to all their normal crap.”
“I know they still want to keep their soap operas and other crap on television, but I’d prefer to see more stuff live on NBC so it’s more widely available to the masses,” said Bruce Fung, 45, of Long Beach, California.
Years ago, when ABC was broadcasting the Olympics, one could watch wall-to-wall, day-and-night, live coverage, which is what many are calling on NBC to provide.
“Show the events live during the day,” Norton said. “They could still show the repeats at night like they are now for the people who work. I can understand showing figure skating over hockey, but show the full hockey game on a sister network.”
“I was home today and they showed the Olympics from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM on [her local NBC station],” Norton lamented. “2:00 – 4:00? Are you [expletive deleted] kidding me? Is ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ really more important? I find that beyond ridiculous.”
The acute lack of live coverage is just the tip of the iceberg.
“I hate the coverage, all of it,” said Beth Boase, 41, of Lake Oswego, Oregon. “It’s too frenetic, jumping from event to event with way too many ‘human’ stories between the stories, talking to the ‘experts’ and the insane amount of advertising.”
Norton also complained about the over-emphasis on the human interest stories about the athletes.
“I like getting to know the behind the scenes stories about the athletes, but some of them are repeated so many times they become annoying,” she said. “I got so sick of hearing about [USA snowboarder] Lindsay Jacobellis screwing up in Torino and then she places fifth in Vancouver.”
“The time they spent repeating that story was time they could have used to broadcast other events.”
After all that, it is rather apparent that NBC’s coverage cannot get much worse. Just don’t try telling that to hockey fans, who are in agony. Even though hockey broadcasts are live, fans are suffering because of other events preempting the start hockey of broadcasts, commercials running during important live action and the difficulty in actually finding what channel a game is being broadcast on.
“I think the hockey coverage has been a joke, and the lack of clarity about how to find the games on the NBC web site, as well as the explanations, or lack thereof, from broadcast talent have been disappointing,” said James Kyriaco, Jr., 34, of Santa Barbara, California.
“They have listed the wrong start times for events, then fail to tell you to switch networks in a timely fashion, then you switch and the wrong sport is on,” Kyriaco added.
Not every hockey fan is up in arms about NBC’s coverage.
“I think they’ve done a good job making all games available on the various NBC affiliated channels,” said Fung. “Since I have USA Network, MSNBC, and CNBC, it works for me.”
“I’m glad that they are showing all the games and not just the ones involving the men’s and women’s teams for USA and Canada,” added Fung.
Nevertheless, Fung’s view is clearly a minority one, and that is putting it mildly.
“I think this mish-mash of MSNBC/CNBC/USA Network is just abysmal,” said Patty Jasper of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, which is located between the cities of Raleigh and Durham. “On top of this, we have had two incidents where curling has gone into overtime or has run long and we miss parts of the [hockey] games. The hockey tournament is littered with National Hockey League talent, and I’m interested. [On Tuesday night], we missed part of Canada’s first game because the women went long on curling. Fast forward to tonight, the men do the exact same thing.”
“[Hockey play-by-play announcer Mike] Emrick instructed the audience on MSNBC to go to CNBC to watch the rest of tonight’s game and, uh-oh, [they are broadcasting] curling! You flip back to MSNBC and they are knee-deep with Keith Olbermann’s show.”
Indeed, whether it is having the start of a game being preempted by other coverage, commercials being aired during game action (how many important plays will be missed this time around?) or just not being able to find a game on the channel it is supposed to be on, NBC’s coverage of hockey during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is, in a word, horrid.
“NBC blathers on about having ‘the Networks of NBC’ so why didn’t they put the Sweden/Germany game on USA Network? They were showing Law & Order re-runs,” Jasper lamented. “Of course, the Canada game, so highly anticipated, there was no heads-up that they were showing it on MSNBC because of the curling, not even a scroller. That’s pitiful.”
What it comes right down to is that, despite being a broadcast partner of the NHL, NBC appears to care very little about hockey, and their disdain for it, based on traditionally low ratings, is plainly evident in their coverage during the Games.
“[NBC] really [doesn’t] have a caring interest in covering hockey,” Jasper claims. “It’s pretty obvious. All these [other] sports are well and good, but I’d think they’d have a better plan on how to handle [other events that run long] or delays. But seriously, trying to bounce [around] the dial to figure out what the hell is going on does a disservice to people who do care.”
“I’d hate to see what happens if the USA gets into medal contention. There might be an ice skating or ice dancing emergency and they get cut off.”
To be sure, hockey fans are probably suffering the most from NBC’s coverage. But that is merely a symptom of larger issues with their coverage.
“[The biggest problem is] the tape delay for the West Coast,” Boase lamented. “Fine, show things in the evening for those who work. But we all make it home in time to watch Monday Night Football, the World Series, NCAA games. It makes no sense that I just had to watch half-pipe qualifying when the finals are happening.”
“This is so sad to me,” Boase added. “One of my favorite memories of growing up was watching the Olympics as a family at night or on the weekend. My eight-year-old can’t stay up until 11:00 PM or later to see events, much less those who work. And explain why on the weekend it can’t be shown during the day like other sports?”
Veteran Southern California sportswriter David Lassen, who has covered several Olympic Games, also panned NBC’s coverage.
“The perfunctory coverage of the men’s downhill was a joke for one of the premiere events of the Games,” said Lassen. “The way they stretch events out over the entire telecast to build drama makes it seem more like reality TV than a sporting event, and when they heavily edit an event, they more or less tip off the results, simply by who they choose to show. If you don’t see someone, they didn’t do well. If you see someone who’s not well known, it means there’s an upset in the making, or a disaster of some kind.”
And if you search the World Wide Web, the blogosphere, Twitter or Facebook, good luck finding praise, compliments or kudos of any kind for NBC and their coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Indeed, this isn’t even the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack scenario—you’ll be looking for something much smaller than a needle.
“You guys are handling hockey and [the] West Coast [tape-] delay so badly, it leads me to believe that you guys would [expletive] up a bake sale.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Indeed, with coverage so absolutely horrendous, it is time for the IOC to end the exclusive broadcasts rights awarded to a single US television network. If the IOC chose to divvy up the broadcast rights and spread the Olympic sports among all the networks involved, perhaps we would then get the live, quality coverage of a lot more of the different sports that we all deserve.
- NBC Continues To Disappoint Hockey Fans (Red Light District)
- U.S. Men’s Hockey Victory Only a Bit Player on NBC (New York Times)
- NBC’s Broken Olympic Coverage Manages To Annoy Absolutely Everyone (NPR)
- NBC’s Olympics Coverage Give Network Ratings Win (Bloomberg)
- The People Of Twitter Think NBC’s Olympics Coverage Sucks (Techcrunch)
- NBC Olympics Coverage Falling Behind Online (Business Insider)
- US Skier Trashes NBC’s Olympics Coverage On Twitter—And It Gets Automatically Posted To NBC’s Web Site (Business Insider)
- Hate NBC Olympics Coverage? Blame Merger Mania (The Confluence)
- NBC Defends Its Olympic Strategy (Sports illustrated)
- NBC’s Olympic Coverage Needs To Join The 21st Century (Spectator Blog)
- NBC’s Olympic Coverage Stinks, But It Gets Results (TV Squad)
- NBC Freezes Out USA-Canada Men’s Hockey Upset (USA Today)
- Pressure Builds On NBC To Explain Why It’s Ruining The Olympics (Business Insider)
- NBC’s Olympic Coverage: Gold, Silver or Lead? (Time)
- NBC Olympics Coverage: Dramatizing to Drum Up Intrigue (Huffington Post)
- NBC Olympics Coverage Making Sports Fans Hate The Network More Than Ever (sbnation.com)
- Alexander: NBC’s Continuing Disrespect For The West (Press-Telegram)
- NBC Olympics Coverage: Network Defends Vancouver Strategy (Huffington Post)
- Believe It Or Not, NBC’s Olympic Coverage Is Pretty Good (Yahoo Sports)
- NBC Olympics Coverage: Millions Watch, Complain, Repeat (Chicago Tribune: Tower Ticker Blog)
- NBC’s Olympics Coverage Infuriates Sports Fans From Coast To Coast (Yahoo Finance)
- NBC Olympics: Live Olympics TV Coverage & Schedule – Twitter Rage (Now Public)
- NBC Effs Up Olympic Coverage (Again) (PerezHilton.com)
- Scoring NBC’s Olympics Coverage (Denver Post)
- NBC Gets A Tin Medal For Hockey Treatment (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- NBC Olympic Coverage: Congressional Action Needed? (Outside The Beltway)
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