It seems this week that the 2012 London Olympics themselves are barely a bigger story than NBC’s botched coverage. I’ve not watched a lot of it live, so I’ve mostly read about the screw ups on the internet. What else would I do at work?
They started off poorly with the opening ceremonies, when there was a tribute to the London bombing victims from a few years ago, that viewers in the States never saw because NBC cut to a taped interview between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps. Which is baffling – why would they do that? They’ve also been criticized for spoiling the results for their dutiful viewers who actually wait all day to watch their prime time coverage of events that happened hours earlier – spoiling Missy Franklin’s win literally at the beginning of the race because they ran a Today Show promo for the following morning, proclaiming Missy Franklin as a gold-medal winner.
There has also been a lot of criticism of Ryan Seacrest’s involvement. This is where I start to deviate from public opinion. Ryan Seacrest used to annoy the hell out of me. But then I stopped watching American Idol so I stopped caring one way or the other. The mornings that he has showed up on the Today Show, I think, have been great. He’s very charismatic and very likable. The segment they had with all the Today Show hosts speed walking through London, culminating in a slap fight between Seacrest and Matt Lauer, was one of the more enjoyable moments I’ve experienced watching the morning coverage since the Olympics began.
I think a lot of the criticism of NBC overall has to do with the fact that they made a conscious decision to hold all big events for prime time viewing, because that’s when they get the most money for advertising. A truly capitalist and greedy motivation. So, if you’re really into the games and don’t want to know the outcome of an event before you get to watch it, it’s practically impossible.
While NBC ultimately made the decision that makes this so, I think a lot of other news outlets – and likely some that are the first to point a finger at NBCs failings – are not helping the situation. There is virtually no news site on all of the internet where you can log on and not have results thrown in your face. I already know the results of the women’s individual gymnastic events, and I was looking forward to seeing that later tonight. But supposing you are totally into all this stuff, and you sequester yourself from turning on the TV or even looking at any web pages where the results might be spoiled (and forget social media – don’t log on to your Facebook or Twitter), I found out today you can’t even check your email. I get news alerts from various outlets, and today the Washington Post sent one out probably the second the women’s individual results were in, with the winner’s name in the subject line. A new way I just found out things can be spoiled – walking by someone else’s computer on my way to the kitchen. I now know the outcome of the men’s 200 IM. Grrr…
So, while NBC has made some admittedly bad decisions, they are not the only culprit spoiling the games for everyone. Everyone is so desperate to communicate news the second they find something out, so unless you live in a bunker or stream the games live all day, you will probably not get to experience the joy, highs and lows that come from rooting for your team during Olympic events. It’s hard to care at that level when you already know the outcome.