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Olympic coverage on NBC

What a joke NBC’s Olympic coverage is!

A single Olympiad occurred during my time in Europe and, having watched it in two different countries, I was impressed with the coverage both on BBC and also on Italian TV. It was much closer to what I remember from my Soviet days, when during the Olympics, practically every event could be seen on TV in its entirety, either live or earlier recorded, with the focus on the present competition.

Now, NBC has done its darnedest best to prove its uniquely inept approach to covering the Games.

Listen, NBC! I don’t need to hear for the fifth time in a couple of days that a Canadian skier draws inspiration from his severely-handicapped brother, or that his Australian rival is actually a Canadian born in Vancouver who bolted Down Under because of a conflict with Canadian team authorities, or that Chinese figure skating favorites have given 18 years of their lives to their pursuit of a gold medal. I already heard and saw that all on the last night’s broadcast! It is no longer enlightening if you keep repeating it. And it is not even news anymore if you simply re-cut the same video segment differently.

Least of all do I need two minutes of commercial breaks for each four-five minutes of event coverage. Especially when there’s been no athletic performances shown in the last 5-minute segment.

In the three hours of prime-time Olympic coverage that I watched last night, we’ve seen about ten downhill runs, a handful of snowboard cross heats and half a dozen or so figure skating pairs’ programs. With charitable approximation, that’s about 70 minutes of the actual event coverage out of 180 minutes spent in front of the TV. Ridiculous!

Some scheduling decisions are impossible to understand, period. I realize that with the 3-hour difference, some prime-time events are simply occurring too late for the younger kids to stay up and watch, but why would the broadcast of a final of a day-time event be pushed all the way back towards midnight? Kimmy was rather fascinated by snowboard cross, but only quarterfinal runs were shown before her bedtime. Semifinals were slotted in between figure skating performances around 10pm, and even I did not stay up beyond 11pm to see the final run. On the other hand, in one of those prime-time segments, we were treated to a riveting spectacle of a Chinese figure skater throwing a football at the beginning of his warm-ups. Followed by the drawn-out medal ceremony for the aforementioned Canadian skier.

Is there anybody out there who enjoys watching the coverage of one of the biggest sporting events on the calendar with the actual competition taking backseat to fluff? NBC has been at it for as long as I can remember. I suppose exclusive broadcast rights mean that my only alternative is not to watch Olympics at all, and since I do want to watch, I will unwillingly contribute to the ratings that will continue to fool NBC into thinking that their coverage was successful. If only I could move back to London for the couple of these Olympic weeks.


  1. Dr. Phil

    When we lived in the U.P. we got CBC and CTV out of Thunder Bay ONTARIO. The Canadians did much better, more even coverage — even and especially during their very own Calgary games. They felt honored to show their audiences the best athletes from around the world whoever they were, and managed to show many of the competitions pretty deep through to the young up and comings, and those from countries who were just happy to be participating.

    So yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying.

    It used to be done better in the U.S., too.

    Dr. Phil

  2. kim

    Since we got rid of cable, I cannot get any Canadian coverage. This includes from the station that is a mere 10 minutes away from my house.
    I am stuck watching NBC coverage on the TV, although I am watching Canadian coverage on the ctv.olympic website…they have ALL COVERAGE ALL THE TIME. and replays for those of us who have work get in the way.

    The NBC coverage has however given me blog fodder, so it isn’t all bad 🙂

  3. Brian Greenberg

    I’ve also heard that NBC’s web coverage is very good (although I haven’t partaken of it myself this year). The live events offer DVR-like functionality (pause, rewind, etc.), and the pre-recorded events are presented without giving away the results (last Olympics, the title of the video revealed the result & ticked off a lot of people).

    I agree with you on the TV coverage. I actually wanted to see the snowboard cross and didn’t realize it happened last night (another downside of intermingling events – if you don’t watch constantly for 3-4 hours, you might miss an event entirely. And with so many commericals, the temptation to channel-surf is very high…). The only exception has been the hockey games (both men’s and women’s), which has been on CNBC and MSNBC, and have been presented in their entirety and without “puff” pieces.

  4. WendyB_09

    This is not the coverage even NBC used to do. We used to get end to end events AND full medal ceremony coverage. I’m kinda having issues with making the athletes wait all day to get their medals at a central time and place. Personally I LIKE seeing the other countries win and hearing their anthems.

    If I won a medal I know I’d be mightily annoyed to wait 10-12-14 hours to get my award. The couple of night ceremonies I’ve seen so far, the winners seem to be kind of blah about it. Oh, Yeah, I won this morning and it’s 10 at night and, sigh, oh, yeah here’s my medal.

    So, NBC, if you’re listening…MORE SPORTS – LESS FLUFF. Not everyone watching is from the short attention span generations and we’re tuning in for the competition!! Not your announcers preening for the cameras!

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