random olympics: how not to broadcast a showcase event

I need only look at last night’s abomination of a broadcast from the National Broadcasting Corporation to see some of the worst possible chop-shop, dumbed-down sports broadcasting ever put on TV. This four-and-a-half hour long exercise in broadcast futility can be broken down thusly:

The showcase event of alpine skiing, the men’s downhill, featured six racers out of 64 starters. These included:

  • Two of four starters from Team USA (including Bode Miller, the bronze medal winner).
  • Two of four starters from Team Switzerland (including Didier Defago, the gold medal winner).
  • One Norwegian (Aksel Lund Svindal, the silver medal winner).
  • One Canadian (Robbie Dixon, who crashed out of the race).

During this coverage there were four commercial breaks of 2:30 per break. The six racers accounted for a grand total of 11 minutes of racing time, plus about 4 minutes of interviews.

(Congratulations, by the way, to all three medalists, who raced to the most closely contested downhill in Winter Olympic history. And welcome back to the good side of media coverage, Mr. Miller.)

The next segment was a feature on polar bears who, as far as I know, are not competing in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. This was around 10 minutes, all told.

The following segment of speed skating had problems due to no fault of NBC, but that of broken Zambonis at the Richmond Oval.

There was about 12 minutes of coverage of snowboard cross, which featured one of the most compelling final rounds I’ve ever seen on a slope, be it skiing or snowboarding. This round was shoehorned in between rounds of…

Pairs figure skating! Yup, there was tons of figure skating on NBC last night. And that also meant way too much commentary from Dick Button, who sounds increasingly like Abe Simpson complaining about the applesauce in the Springfield Retirement Home. At least they have Scott Hamilton doing the play-by-play (he at least understands the athletic aspects of modern figure skating).

And the quality of skating, save for the top two pairs, was woeful. I mean, it was awful: crashes, slow-pace, spinning to a stop, the works. If these were truly the best the world had to offer, it’s a sad statement about modern figure skating. Seriously, it looked like Jamie SalĂ© and David Pelltier were ready to bust out of the broadcast booth, strap on their skates and show these clowns how to actually skate with feeling and ability.

Back to my point: NBC dedicated more than half of the night’s broadcast to figure skating, showing many of the pairs in a sport that is so made-for-TV silly as to be painful. Granted, I enjoyed watching the two Chinese pairs who finished 1-2, as they looked like they actually were skating to win. So that was, what, almost 9 minutes of compelling coverage?

Otherwise, there were interview pieces (about 20-25 minutes of ‘em), the worst of which featured Chris “I Can Only Really Broadcast NFL Football” Collinsworth interviewing Lindsey Jacobellis, the U.S. snowboarder whose hubris in 2006 was legendary. And Collinsworth asked her the same questions she’s been asked over the past four years, getting the same answers as every other interviewer. Why did NBC fly this clown to Vancouver?

Oh, and there was over one hour of commercial time during the 4.5 hour broadcast time. I guess that NBC Universal wants to recoup as much of the financial loss as possible.

NBC, you remain pathetic.

6 thoughts on “random olympics: how not to broadcast a showcase event”

  1. What I loved is one of the guys that was doing the commentary on the Freestyle Skiing event the other night sounded like a complete stoner. Didn’t watch last night, so not sure if he’s doing it there too, but it was pretty funny to listen to.

  2. Al Michaels has been a bumbling catastrophe behind the desk. At one point the other night, he just stared the teleprompter (and the viewing public) down until it faded to black because he had too quickly stuttered his way through whatever he was trying to say and had seconds of extra time. To say it was painful would be an understatement.

  3. NBC’s Olympic broadcasts have been dreadful, even to this ex-figure skater who generally likes watching figure skating, but does so with the sound muted whenever the bilious Dick Buttons is on the screen. And yes, the amount time they are giving to interviews and human (and bear) interest stories instead of the actual Olympic sports is more than annoying.

  4. What I loved is one of the guys that was doing the commentary on the Freestyle Skiing event the other night sounded like a complete stoner.

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