Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh So Close!!

It was almost safe for serious sports fans to watch the Olympics again.  ESPN/ABC was in the running for US broadcast rights of the next four Olympic Games.  Unfortunately, they were outbid by NBC--meaning a continued tradition of coverage geared to people who couldn't care less about sports.

That means we can look forward to any important event being shown "plausibly live" in American prime time--rather than live, regardless of the time it might air here in the US.  Some of you may say "What does it matter if you see it live or on tape--at least you get to see it."  That attitude might have been fine in the 50's and 60's when information sources were far more limited.  But in the 21st century, I can know any results instantly--and I want to see it as it happens.  If you don't care about experience history in the moment--then we can replay it for you on some other network later in the day.  (By the way, the greatest moment in Olympic history--the Miracle on Ice hockey victory over the USSR was shown on tape delay by ABC.  The Russians refused to move the game time back a couple of hours that Friday--and ABC officials didn't want to commit two hours of prime time to the game, believing Team USA was going to get blown out anyway.)

NBC coverage also means we get to learn about the "struggles" that every member of the US gymnastics and figure skating teams have overcome to make it to the Games.  In fact, the NBC Sports executive I saw in a TV clip last night was touting the "storytelling" tradition that he was going to uphold starting next year in London.  There is a reason I don't watch the countless hours of NFL pre-game, NHL Playoffs Preview or NBA Countdown to Tipoff coverage--I only want to watch games.  Spare me the "background" on the grandma who loved skating--but just couldn't make it see her grandchild compete at Sochi.

I thought with ESPN/ABC coverage, we would have sports people programming the games for sports fans.  Hockey, basketball, baseball and golf shown in real time--even if it means getting up at 1:30 am--and something other than the aforementioned gymnastics and figure skating featured EVERY NIGHT in prime time coverage.

Now there could actually be one positive with NBC getting the games.  With the NHL having a long-term contract in place with NBC already, the network may pressure Commissioner Gary Bettman into letting his stars continue to play in the Olympics.  Bettman has cooled to the idea--since it blows a hole in the middle of the regular season--and NBC wasn't really giving the game the exposure Bettman wanted.  Maybe he can convince the folks at NBC to show the games on something other than CNBC--and perhaps putting virtual all-star games like Canada-Russia and Sweden-Czech Republic on the main network as well.

In the meantime, real sports fans will have to keep scouring the upper end of the cable spectrum to get our curling and team handball fixes.

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