Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Games Rights to NBC – Did the Fans Lose Out

Watching the bid process for the rights to the next four Olympic Games (‘16, ‘18. ‘20, ‘22) I actually started to get a bit excited, because ESPN & Fox were in the mix and presented proposals that said they would provide actual LIVE coverage of the Games. Imagine that! No more slicing and dicing and leaving action on the floor in favor of next day highlight reels after reading bout the action half a day or more in advance!

At the end of the day, however, the Comcast/NBC conglomerate offered more money for the package than either ESPN or Fox could muster, and thus the IOC once again gave the telecast rights to NBC. And while the IOC put additional funds in their coffers, I have to wonder if we, the fans, were sold out once again.

For the last two decades NBC has had the exclusive rights to the Olympic Games. And for two decades now we’ve gotten all sorts of promises. From umpteen channels of action, to live streaming of events. Promises that have been fulfilled – up to a point. Yes we’ve gotten umpteen channels of action – but not of the Games better sports/events. Ditto with the live streaming, as yes there has been live streaming, but no it hasn’t been of the events most coveted by the sporting masses.

Because what NBC has always been interested in is securing advertising dollars in return for the high fees that it has paid for the rights to televise the Games. And the way that they have attempted to secure the highest fees possible is to hold all of the top level action, and “package” it for prime time broadcasting! Which has meant that we, the fans, have had to wait half a day, to nearly 24 hours, in order to see action that the rest of the world saw when it happened!

Some twenty years ago it was bad enough to get the newspaper in the morning as see results in the paper that we wouldn’t get to see until the tape delayed telecast during prime time that evening. After all cable was just really getting rolling in the 80’s and the internet as we know was but a science fiction dream. But now with over 400 channels of cable broadcasting and an internet that is capable of giving instantaneous feeds as action happens, tape delay “should” be something that adults tell their grandchildren about as if it is ancient history!

Unfortunately NBC has continued to treat tape delay as state of the art broadcasting. So while our friends in Europe get to watch live action, as do our lesser neighbors in third world countries, we here in the United States have to wait interminably to watch what NBC has determined “valuable” enough for us to see! Which means that most of the heats/rounds and other action has been cut out, while we are fed the “important” finals (by NBC standards) and highlights of the “previous days” actions.

And NBC has treated the internet as the enemy. While many nations provide LIVE internet feeds of the Games, we here in the U.S. are denied their access, as NBC runs around shutting off U.S. access to any feeds that are not their own. And NBC refuses to put anything note worthy online, again saving what they consider the best for prime time.

Interestingly enough, while Fox and ESPN brought proposals that stated their intent to provide LIVE coverage of the Games to American fans, the IOC once again went with the deep pockets of NBC – who had no mention of improving the viewing experience for Americans by providing LIVE coverage of primary events.

I am hoping that my fears are for naught and that NBC will do what’s best for the viewing public and provide LIVE coverage of track & field, swimming & diving, gymnastics and other headline sports of the Games. I would actually hope that their plans for 2012 – which they already had the rights to – include this kind of coverage. But to make sure I will be contacting them, as I hope that all sports fans do, to let them know that the coverage we’ve been getting is unsatisfactory. And I will also be contacting the IOC to let them know that while they’ve been paid handsomely, we haven’t been getting coverage of the same quality.

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