Back in 2010, I wrote a post on this blog that criticized NBC’s dumbed-down approach to covering the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, expressing hope that NBC might – just might – improve things for 2012, 2014 and beyond.
You can read that post here. Go ahead, read it – I’ll wait…
Done? Good. Now let’s see what has happened since then.
In January of this year, NBC pulled over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting of its Universal Sports channel, making it a cable and satellite-only, premium subscription network. It seems that the OTA presence was nothing more than a “trial balloon” to see if the network was viable. So, under the guise of “improving broadcast quality,” NBC moved the network behind a paywall.
So for us OTA-only viewers, we have… just NBC.
And what does NBC do with their broadcasting? They show some events live and (relatively) uncut, during hours when most U.S. viewers are either at work or asleep. The primetime coverage? Well, I covered that in 2010:
NBC is showing sliced-and-diced coverage: coverage where events are shown in a non-contiguous manner, with rapid-fire switching between events and frequent interruptions of coverage with so-called â€œhuman interestâ€ stories about Canada, culture, athletes with â€œinspiring stories,â€ et al. The only events with more-or-less contiguous coverage are daytime events that have lower viewership, hockey and figure skating. If you are a fan of alpine skiing (like me), bobsled, luge, ski jumping or long-track speed skating, the coverage is â€œcustom fitâ€ to showcase Team USA and â€œselect favorites for the events.â€
Substitute “England” for “Canada,” and various summer sports for the winter sports mentioned, and it’s the same basic thing.
I compare this to the BBC’s coverage for the London games, which includes:
- all-day event coverage on BBC One
- all-day coverage on BBC Three, usually of uncut events
- web streaming of all events, live and interruption-free
Any UK-located fan of the games can watch this stuff for free (OK, folks in the UK do pay for a “television license” when they buy a TV, but that’s academic – it’s essentially free). They’re even offering everything in high-definition, and some events (such as the Danny Boyle-concocted opening ceremony and the 100-meter dash) in 3-D.
Put simply: it’s immersive, thorough, and damned impressive.
Of course, you need to be a UK resident to see any of this. Sure, there are ways for folks outside of the UK can watch this, but I won’t go into that (it’s not hard to figure out with visits to the search firm of Google & Bing, Ltd.).
And NBC? Online streaming is only available to cable and satellite subscribers, as are the iOS and Android apps. Us OTA folk have the basic NBC stuff, which, as The Onion snarkily (but, sadly, accurately) implies, is aimed at soccer moms.
And us fans of sport? Once again, we’re left with crap.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ll watch a lot of the crap NBC gives us “disgraceful” OTA viewers. And I’ll find ways to watch the other events as presented by networks that seem to value the intelligence of their viewers.
And guess what? NBC has the IOC’s exclusive license to show the Olympic Games in the U.S. until 2022.