Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's not called Prime Time for nothing

Poor NBC.  They invest more than one billion dollars to televise the 2012 Summer Games, and they can't get a lot of respect.  NBC will have more than 5500 hours of coverage on NBC and other channels, including NBC Sports and Telemundo.  In comparison,  NBC's Beijing coverage was a mere 3600 hours.
The number of hours of coverage has grown with each consecutive Olympics, Summer and Winter.  In 1992, NBC's coverage included 161 hours on the network and 1080 hours on Triplecast, a pay-per-view plan with Cablevision.  I think I paid $10.00 to see all the Gymnastics events.  However, Triplecast was a $100 million failure, and was not repeated in 1996, when the Games were held in Atlanta.

I am an Olympic junkie.  I love the Olympics.  I've been to Munich in 1972, Montreal in 1976  and Lake Placid in 1980.  I cheer for the US.  I do not understand why American swimmers do not finish first and second in every event.  We should.   I certainly do not associate France with swimming.  Fencing perhaps, but not swimming.   

I have my favorite sports.  Gymnastics and swimming in the summer and figure skating in the winter.   I am largely happy with NBC's coverage.  I like being able to come home after going to the gym, flop on the couch and turn on my tv to watch the Games, even though I already know the results.  

Earlier today, at work,  I watched rather surreptitiously the Team Final on NBC's Live Streaming and on the BBC.  Will someone tell me why BBC One switched from the Gymnastics to the Evening News at 6, when the US women were in the final rotation?  

I have to admit I am not a techno geek.  I have a desktop computer, a laptop and an IPad.  I also have an IPod, which I use when I go to the dentist twice a year.  I've moved to a fancy Smartphone, but I use it to make and receive calls, check email, and sometimes I take a photo of my cats with the camera.  My Digital SLR takes better photos.

Oh, I have HD TV, too but I do not have a hankering for huge television.  My Sony Bravia is 32 inches and Pink ... yes, Pink.  So is my laptop and my toaster.

Although I liked being able to watch the live streaming, I really do not enjoy the small screen (which is so 1950s) and not being comfortable watching at my desk at work.

There has been a lot of whining largely through Twitter about what many perceive as NBC's failure to televise the Opening Ceremony live.  NBC did not offer live streaming for the Opening Ceremony.  The Closing Ceremony will also be shown on a taped delay.

Many have complained about the tape delays, but does it really matter?  Do you really want to be hunched over a computer screen, hoping your boss doesn't catch you watching the Games.  In Right to Work states, you can be fired without just cause. Need I say more?  Many employers block a lot of sites to keep employees from not doing their jobs.

I have friends who do not want to know the results so they can watch the coverage with their families at night.  I  chose not to share on Facebook how thrilled I was with Jordyn, Gabby, McKayla, Kyla and Ally winning the Gold in Ladies' Gymnastics because I knew some of my friends might be upset with the spoilers .. and difficult to do spoiler alerts on Facebook.

The Olympics is more than a sports competition.  For millions of Americans, the Olympics offer the opportunity to learn about another country, another culture.    NBC is getting higher ratings than they received for their Beijing coverage.  Forty million watched the taped delay Opening Ceremony, the highest ever for an Opening Ceremony.

Why?  It's London, baby, it's London ... and the whiners, as loud as they can be, are actually, the minority, the me-me's, it is all about me, rather than about we.  
Olympic coverage is not about me or you.  It is about reaching the most people, and the most people watch television during prime time.  The advertisers know this, and NBC needs the advertisers to recoup most of their investment.

The US broadcasting network pays more than all the other broadcasters.  I expect US fees help fund the IOCs champagne receptions and meetings where they allegedly find ways to cover up cheating, such as denying the hard evidence showing China fudged the ages of several gymnasts.

 Broadcasting the Olympics does not come cheap, which is why NBC (and CBS and ABC) save the premier events for prime time ... because they know we are going to watch.  It is unlikely that 40 million Americans watched the live streaming of gymnastics earlier today.   The advertisers know this, too.  Advertisers are not interested in daytime because NBC would not get the viewers.  Most people are not at home. Period.

EVERY event can be seen on live streaming although you must have a cable subscription that includes CBNC and MSNBC.  [Note to whiners: it is not NBC's fault that you do not have the right cable package in order to watch the Live Streaming on your computer, IPad or Smartphone.   NBC paid for the right to broadcast the Summer Games.  You didn't.  There is live coverage through out the day on the various NBC networks. ]
Not everyone uses Netflix or Hulu.  My Smartphone came with a Netflix App, and I cannot remove it.  Why would  I want to watch a movie on my phone?  The screen is too small. [For those of you watching the Games on your Smartphone or IPad, wait until next month's phone bill .. your data charges will hit the roof ... unless you are using WiFi.]  A very large percentage of the American population prefers to collapse on a couch and watch sports on their television screens.

The whines are always the same.  NBC focuses only on American athletes.  Well,  NBC is an American network, but it is also not true that NBC  does not cover athletes from other countries.  On the Today Show this morning,  an Australian swimmer was profiled.  Plenty of coverage of Zara Phillips including showing Team GB receive their Silver Medals from Zara's Mom.

(I love the Today Show.  What a pure piece of unalloyed joy to turn on the TV at 7:00 a.m., and see the Fab Five with Matt and Savannah!) 

Another complaint: NBC does not interview non-American gold medalists after their wins.  Duh! Don't you think the other medalists are interviewed by their countries' broadcasters?

NBC's commentators and analysts favor the Americans.  I am "listening" to the BBC One coverage of the Men's Individual All-Around (Go Daniel, Go John!) and the British commentators were waxing lyrical about one of the Brits in the competition .. and you should have heard the gushing when Wiggo won the cycling event earlier today.     NBC showed the French commentators nearly wetting their pants when the French swimmers won the relay.   I am still trying to figure out when the French learned to swim.

Some whine about the "glory days" when ABC televised the Olympics.  Was the coverage all that different from NBC's?  The answer is: no.  Same model.   ABC rarely showed events live, saving the good stuff for prime time.  Remember the Up Close and Personal profiles of athletes?

Hands up if you knew the score of the USA-USSR ice hockey game in 1980 before you watched at night on ABC?   I did. I was living with my dad in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1980 as I was working on my master's in library science at SUNYA.  All the SUNY colleges and universities had a longer winter break due to the Olympics.   For Christmas 1979, my dad gave me an Olympic package that included Ladies' Downhill and the Finals in Pairs Skating. I also bought a ticket for Ice Dancing (really impressed with the British team who finished in fifth place.)

The game started at 5 p.m., and ABC wanted to change the time to 8 p.m., so it could be shown live in Prime Time on the East Coast.   The Soviets would not agree to the change, as the game would have been moved to 4 a.m., in Moscow.

My dad also bought tickets for the Gold Medal Hockey game, which we assumed would include the USSR and Czechoslovakia.    Don't ever assume such things.  The USA defeated the USSR 4-3.  The late Jim McKay compared the US's victory to a Canadian football team beating the then Super Bowl champs, Pittsburgh Steelers.   I turned on the radio to find out the score, and after I heard it, I came out of my bedroom and walked into the kitchen where my dad was making dinner.  "Daddy," I said, with a smile, "we just beat the USSR."

My dad looked up, and responded: "No doggie doo."  Well, he actually said something else, but I do not know if I can use that word on Blogger.

NBC's ratings are up 9% from four years ago. London, baby, London.   The majority of viewers are not the whiners,  but the casual viewers who actually enjoy seeing Americans, just as the British enjoy seeing the British.  

Last night, 37.5 million viewers watched the prime time telecast with a peak in the 10-11 p.m., hour where 43.9 million people tuned in.  Not bad.  Not bad at all. 

The BBC is a public service broadcasting network largely funded by licensing fees so they are obligated to provide access to all.  No American network, including PBS, has such an obligation.  NBC wrote the check to the IOC, and they decided how they would present the Games to the American viewer. Not everyone likes how NBC (and ABC and CBS) does it, but viewership is up .. and advertisers are paying top dollar for adverts during Prime Time.    It's about choice.  No one is forced to watch the Games.

I don't want to be seen as a NBC apologist as I have a few quibbles about editing out several parts of the Opening Ceremony. But I am happy that I can see any sport I want (surreptitiously) because I have the right cable package.  NBC is not obligated to provide free coverage to everyone, but it does have the right to decide how it will provide access.  We can choose to watch.  Or not.

I am very pleased with the options I have because I am not missing ANYTHING.  At all.  Bring on the Synchronized Swimming!   Bring on more scenes from London, my favorite city in world.  I've been there 46 times, most recently in June for the Diamond Jubilee.,0,489540.story

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