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Stephen Kaus

Stephen Kaus

Posted: August 9, 2008 12:14 PM

NBC's "Live" Olympics Fraud


NBC means "Never Broadcast Currently." Having practiced in June by delaying the telecast of Roger Federer's Wimbledon semi-final for six hours (nine on the West Coast), NBC now is embargoing many of the most important events and running around the world, trying to prevent anyone from posting any video on the Internet.

As much as I enjoyed the victory of the Brazilian soccer team over North Korea this morning, not to mention the exciting Poland vs. Estonia badminton match that is presently on in HD, I would much rather have seen Michael Phelps break the worlds record in the men's 400 meters individual medley.

NBC knows this and that is why they won't let me see it. They want to hold it for their prime time show. Undoubtedly for the end of their prime time show, at which time I plan to be asleep.

This is ridiculous in 2008. It is now 8 a.m. and I know the result. Much of the fun of watching sports is not knowing the result. They are going to show the race in 15 hours.

But NBC is not catering to sports fans. It is catering to the ignorant sheep who are used to having "reality' cut up and organized by the likes of Mark Burnett. As Jay Leno demonstrated last night in his Jaywalking episode (link coming) , they don't know the score in more ways than one. But they buy stuff. It's the Olympics as a soap opera.

This "plausibly live" coverage, as annoying as it has been for years, is hopelessly anachronistic in 2008, when even NBC is offering thousands of hours of video on the web and seemingly dozens of TV networks. In fact, the Phelps story (and I just used Phelps because he was the one when I started writing: he already has been eclipsed by the loss of the top US men's beach volleyball team to Latvia, also delayed, although I did not check for it on the web) is the lead on the NBCOlympics.com site, there just is no video and, of course, no drama.

Why can't NBC broadcast the most important events live on one of one of its subsidiary networks or even on its web site? Then I could choose: USA at 5 a.m. or NBC at 11 p.m.

They could do it complete with commercials targeted at the audience: think Bud instead of Olay.

But that would be outside the box. The current thinking is more from the school that blacks out home NFL games if there is not a sell out. Think Mad Men.

The days when you could avoid the results until the delayed broadcast are long gone. I learned of Phelps record on Drudge while checking up on the latest Edwards scandal news. (I had to check Drudge because I suspect that the proprietor of this site is asleep, but I digress) As the games go on, the top results will be on the Yahoo front page and just about everywhere else, including the little screen in the elevator I take up to my office.

I understand that NBC has bribed the Chinese into having several key events in the morning, so they will be live in New York. But, it is safe to say that many key events will not be live, and in any event, NBC's idea of "live" means a three hour delay in California. I think NBC is pretty much alone in tape delaying major sports for time zones. Thank God they don't have much to show.

I plan on voting with my eyeballs and watching Manny vs. Los Gigantes instead.

Update: Chris Chase on Yahoo emphasizes the insane three hour delay of even putatively live events for the West Coast, an indignity on which NBC is a past master.

I did enjoy hearing the score of the China-USA basketball game on NPR while driving home to view it.

Contrary to some of the comments, sports are almost universally broadcast live on the West Coast. TNT has some transgressions, but three hour delays are almost always from NBC. I guess the execs in Burbank get private feeds.

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