NBC actually showed Michael Phelps live on the east coast last night as he shattered his own world record in the 400 IM. We watched–and, suddenly, the Olympics were as awesome as, well, the Olympics. If you live on the west coast, of course, thanks to another absurd decision by NBC, you only got to watch the race after reading about Phelps’ victory online, when it was about as exciting as 1970s Superbowls.
(And as if this weren’t enough, NBC is doing the same thing this morning, with USA-China basketball).
Why is NBC making decisions guaranteed to alienate and outrage much of the country? Money, of course. The network apparently believes it stands a better chance of earning back its $894 milllion plus programming costs if it infuriates viewers across the country.
And maybe the network is right. But it’s still a dumb decision.
Sponsors don’t benefit when fans are tuning in to see HOW Michael Phelps won rather than IF HE WINS. They don’t benefit when viewers are cursing the network and throwing imaginary fruit at the TV. They don’t benefit when the country develops a collective loathing for the network that lasts far longer than the two-week games.
And we also have a sneaking suspicion that the network is wrong. Especially on the weekend, we think rabid sports fans would tune in to see live events any hour of the day or night–and that not-so-rapid Olympics enthusiasts would then also tune in to watch NBC’s packaged garbage highlights broadcast in prime time. In other words, we actually doubt that broadcasting events live would hurt NBC’s total viewership.
The other way to handle it, of course, would be to broadcast all events live online–with commercials. As good as NBC’s streaming is, it’s still a far cry from high-def TV. Even if millions of people tuned in online, the TV audience would barely be affected. In fact, lots of folks who watched a beetle-sized Phelps fly to victory on their PC screens would probably watch again in the evening just to see it on TV. NBC’s total audience, in other words, might even be bigger.
As NBC tells America every chance it gets, it has locked up Olympics rights into the hereafter. This is a bummer: Now, no other network can show the country how it should be done. We can only hope/pray that, four years from now, NBC has finally learned its lesson and broadcasts the games live.
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