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NBC's Olympic Coverage Stinks, But It Gets Results

by Joel Keller, posted Feb 22nd 2010 8:22PM
NBC's Vancouver Olympics logoComplaining about how NBC covers the Olympics is almost an Olympic sport all by itself. Pretty much ever since the Atlanta games in 1996, NBC has been raked over the coals for tape-delaying events and concentrating on stories instead of the sports themselves.

The outrage has been especially loud when the Games have been held in North America, mainly because the time differences are minimal. The hue and cry has been louder than ever from Vancouver, mainly because, in a world where results can be shot around to every computer and cell phone in the world via Twitter and Facebook, NBC is shooting itself in the foot with what seems to be 1990s thinking.

Here's the rub, though: The Olympics are kicking tail in the ratings, despite all the complaints.

The latest complaint is that NBC decided to shuffle last night's highly-anticipated US vs. Canada hockey match to MSNBC, which not everyone gets in HD, and put more nichey, and tape-delayed, sports like ice dancing and ski cross on the NBC broadcast. NBC explained that they felt that they'd rather commit the three-hour live time block they needed for the game on cable than burn a night of network coverage for it. What they were really trying to say, of course, is that "ice dancing gets the 'Dancing with the Stars' demographic."

This follows a litany of bad press about the coverage:


OK, the last one wasn't such a big deal, but the way NBC has been pilloried over the last ten days, I figured we could just add that onto the pile.

But, despite everything, NBC's coverage of the games has been getting the network its best numbers in quite some time. On Wednesday it beat 'American Idol,' giving the FOX talent juggernaut its first timeslot loss in almost six years. It also beat 'Idol' for the week. It's the highest ratings for a Winter Olympics since the 1994 Gilooly Games in Lillehammer.

It could be the lousy weather, the lack of counter-programming from the competition, sparkling HD content, or the crummy economy. But clearly NBC's "plausibly live" method, while a relic of the 1990s, is something most viewers either don't notice or just don't care about. It almost makes me long for the days before Twitter -- almost.

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Vicky

Channel Nine in Australia nearly got it right the past few days, but tomorrow, they will be one of the only nations not showing the Men's Hockey Olympic Final Live even though Channel Nine even announced to their viewers it will be the most watched sporting event in History. http://bit.ly/cbmZvG

February 28 2010 at 5:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Corrector

Sweet revenge.. Americans not being able to get the Canadian feed. God that feels good.

February 25 2010 at 12:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Kozora

Disappointed in coverage of figure skating. Tonight (so far) we had 2minutes and 20 seconds of skating and probably an hour of skiing. Time to even things out.

February 23 2010 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
h20sno

The coverage absolutely sucks! Ice dancing is not a sport! Maybe the ratings are high, but they don't realize that most of us are blowing through the Ice Fairies using a DVR. The rest of the world gets great coverage and we get the shaft. Show it on the internet you morons and then you can see what people really watch.

February 23 2010 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
R-Bro

Who's complaining? I think their coverage has been great, and I like seeing all the athletes' back-stories. (Now if only I could erase the image of Julie Mancuso jumping around like an idiot cheerleader, I'd be all set.)

February 23 2010 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave

I have to say, living in Canada and watching CTV's coverage is amazing. Multi-channel coverage including CTV, TSN and Sportsnet, and multi-channel live HD coverage online. Try CTVolympics.com I believe there is some kind of world stream for anyone outside of Canada.

And for the Americans complaining about living close to the border but not getting live coverage, just remember we don't get Hulu.

February 23 2010 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lauren

I'm near buffalo and I've been watching the canadian CTV feed which is always carrying olympic coverage. That's where I watched the usa/canada hockey game since nbc snubbed hockey.

February 23 2010 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
L'Emmerdeur

Perhaps the eminent bloggers of all things TV may have noticed that almost every show on every major network is not showing new episodes during the Olympics?

Could that have something to do with the decent ratings, there's absolutely nothing else to watch? I've been burning through my Netflix queue lately because my Tivo remains all but silent.

February 23 2010 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew

I live in Seattle, a 3 hour drive from Vancouver, and I don't get to watch the coverage live? Bullshit.

February 23 2010 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cray

The switch on the hockey game was brillant move because Men will find the game and women will watch whatever is shown. So NBC managed to double dip by having high ratings for both ice skating and hockey.

February 23 2010 at 12:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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