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Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Olympics: Prime-time gold worth wait for NBC


The Olympics always bring out the inner TV critic in us all, so we gave readers a chance to critique NBC’s coverage in an online discussion:

Dave Fish: We live in a now society. We want our media now. We want our sports now. . . . We want our Olympics now . . . not eight hours from now. They need to figure this out because this isn’t working.
Remember that with any sport, the ultimate responsibility for keeping viewers interested is the sport itself. Networks - whether it’s with the NBA, NFL, Olympics - can come and go when it comes to airing the event. The event itself has the ultimate control. . . . Networks worry about building big TV audiences so they can at least break even on what they spend.

Mike B: Why doesn’t NBC show more live events?
NBC has stuck to the longtime Olympic TV plan: Hold the best action until prime time, when viewership is biggest. Naturally, people can find out the results long before that footage airs. But NBC has exclusive rights to the footage before it airs, so it knows you won’t see it until it shows it.

Rob Rakossy: I get the need for a taped package for everyone at prime time, but then use your outlets and broadcast live . . . (and) stream as many events on the Internet.
They’re looking to bolster prime-time interest above all, rather than ever detract from it. . . . Actually, in many countries, live online streaming of Olympic events has been widespread for years. NBC, though, pays enormous TV rights fees - $820 million for Vancouver - mainly for the right to air Olympic footage for the first time. If Bode Miller’s afternoon run were all over the Internet immediately, and also available for other networks to show, fewer people would be sitting around waiting to see it on tape that night.

Cindy: I agree about showing all the downhill runs on one channel, all the skating on another channel and all the halfpipe on yet another of their five channels.
You’re on to something with grouping more sports by channel. NBC already does some of that with hockey, curling, etc. In future Olympic TV/Internet models, you might see more of what you’re talking about. . . . NBC is weighing the long-term risks. Let’s say CNBC, its business channel, shows lots of daytime Olympics and viewers looking for business news wander over to Fox Business. NBC has to worry about keeping those viewers after the Games.

John Fischetti: I was in Lake Placid, N.Y., and was lucky enough to be able to tune in to CTV to watch the downhill live.
It’s not just Canada that shows lots more Olympic action live on TV and online. Pretty much everybody carries it live. NBC has a very unusual model. But then, NBC pays much, much more than networks from other countries.

Dave Fish: Daytime coverage is next to nothing. Save the finals for 8 p.m. (ET) . . . give us something to watch!
This goes back to NBC’s central tenet of prime time being all important because it gets the whopping viewer totals. But this is a chicken-and-egg thing: If you hold your best for prime time, of course it will get the biggest audiences.

Dave Fish: But their ratings are down, so that obviously can’t be working well.
Well, Olympic ratings are the trickiest to interpret. Ratings are up from Torino in 2006, but those Games presented obvious time zone problems. Ratings are down from Salt Lake (in 2002) - with a comparable time zone. But those games were in the United States, and U.S. ratings always go up when America has the Games. Then there are always lots of variables. NBC, despite the time differences with China, got good ratings - especially when Michael Phelps swam. But how much was due to NBC’s coverage and how much to the freakish success of Phelps?

Back to our regular Monday programming:
Ratings Games:NBC clocked its second-lowest prime-time rating of the Vancouver Games on Friday, despite two U.S. skiing medals. But the network’s 23.3 million average viewers nearly doubled that of CBS, Fox and ABC combined, according to Nielsen. Overall, the first eight days of NBC’s prime-time coverage was up 20(PERCENT) over Torino in 2006 with 26.2 million average viewers.
Innovation station: ESPN, which plans to launch a 3-D network this summer, unveiled “ultimate uplink” during Sunday’s NBA pregame show on ABC. The new gadget made it appear that Stuart Scott was interviewing the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard in the studio - except Howard wasn’t actually in the studio. Stuart explained on-air that “ultimate uplink” is designed to enhance interviews. It wasn’t clear how this differed from a remote interview . . . but it looked cool. Says ESPN’s Mike Soltys: “Ultimate uplink is a visually compelling experience and has the potential to offer immediate reaction with newsmakers in a more engaging manner.”
Spice rack: Fox’s Chris Myers in a Q&A segment before Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in California: “We hid today’s answers underneath an encyclopedia in the Kardashian household.” As if it weren’t difficult enough.