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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic viewing becoming a sport in itself as NBC broadcast leaves viewers in the dark

NBC's anachronistic tape-delayed coverage has been a debacle for fans and media types alike, just days into the London Games.
While NBC paid more than $1 billion for the American TV rights, its seems the network has turned the Summer Olympics into scripted prime time fare typically reserved for a fall debut. The network is entitled to broadcast how it sees fit, but most egregiously, it axed a memorial for victims of the 2005 London Bombing from Friday's Opening Ceremonies. This was done after the network's Twitter account live-tweeted updates from the pageant while Americans waited for a five-plus hour delay.
(And for that matter, no one uses tape anymore, do they?)
Tech Crunch writes:
"NBC Olympics Twitter account is evidence of this, but the account seems totally misused in this case: NBC live tweeted the whole ceremony, with no apparent sense of irony around the fact that its target audience couldn’t actually watch the events it was describing."
Saturday, the peacock net dropped the ball by holding out on the Ryan Lochte-Michael Phelps battle. Some fans seem content to watch the Games online, but it seems the network's streaming players are overmatched. And viewers must have cable or satellite provider credentials even to log-in to NBC's proprietary site. (And really, how is watching it live on your computer or phone better than watching live on your big-screen TV?) So, if you're one of the 10 percent or so of Americans without cable (like me), you have to wait (unless you go about other means, such as acquiring the BBC's feed of the games.)
Add to that the fact there is no commentary with the livestream and it leads you to believe they don't even want you to watch the games until prime time anyhow.
And once you get to prime time, you're greeted by seemingly customized advertising starring Ryan Lochte in the commercial break immediately following his gold medal-winning performance in a manner similar to "The Truman Show," but even that show was live, 24 hours a day.  
Some viewers are complaining about spoiler alerts online and in social media, as one Reddit user left this eloquent gem.
Tape delays have long been a part of foreign Olympics coverage, but this is really the first games, Twitter and Facebook were practically infants during the 2008 Beijing Games, where social media has held such a tight grip on Americans' everyday lives.
There once was relief for Metro Detroiters armed with Windsor's CBC affiliate on their cable or satellite service, but after more than a decade of Olympics coverage, the network was beaten by rival CTV for Canadian rights to the London Games (at a cost of essentially 10 percent of the American rights).
The American furor has also spawned the Twitter hashtag #NBCfail as well as funny parody account, @NBCdelayed.
So far, it hasn't mattered much, as the ratings for the opening ceremony and first day of competition  were both up, according to NBC. Could it be, the hold out is building drama? 
As much as tape delays have frustrated fans over the Games' first weekend, it's unlikely anyone will say anything during the work week, as business schedules resume and American viewers spend less time in front of the tube.
Maybe then we'll appreciate the art of the tape delay.