NBC's 'Most Live Olympics Ever' Will Have A One Hour Broadcast Delay For The Opening Ceremony

from the late-to-the-party dept

It’s Olympics season again. What is normally an expose of how the IOC and the USOC become the biggest IP bullies on the block has had a little spice added to it this year in the form of a host country that by all reports is woefully unprepared for its duties while simultaneously being rocked by a pest-spread disease with the delightful symptom of shrinking the brains of fetuses. And if that doesn’t make you believe that some combination of a god and/or the universe wants the Olympics to cease to be, perhaps the fact that the whole fiasco will be broadcast by NBC will.

Yes, running in parallel with our posts about IOC bullying, you will find a history of posts about NBC’s strange attempts to turn back the clock on its broadcast of the games. Historically, this has meant limiting the live streaming of most of the events, making it as difficult to find and watch any event as possible, and delaying all kinds of event broadcasts until NBC deems that the public wants to watch them. But have heart, dear friends, for the NBC overlords have listened and have declared that these Rio Olympics will be the “most live Olympics ever.”

For Rio 2016, NBC says this will be its “most live Olympics ever” with 4,500 hours of coverage streaming on NBCOlympics.com and the recently renamed NBC Sports app. Also new this time around is that the NBC Sports app is on connected TV devices (it launched on Roku and Apple TV last year), not just mobile.

Now, I’ll just go ahead and note here that while NBC has been very busy patting itself on the back for how much more live coverage there will be of the Olympics in Rio compared with previous broadcasts, the fact that there is a time difference of exactly one hour between East Coast time and Brazil means that all the live coverage is probably just happenstance rather than any concerted effort by NBC. But, hey, the company has still gotten the message that live coverage only makes sense in a hyper-connected world where view-on-demand can be achieved by the devices we carry around in our pockets at work and while in transit, right?

Sure! Except for the opening ceremony, because you idiots aren’t smart enough to be able to watch that live.

The Rio Olympics formally begin August 5th with the opening ceremony from the Maracanã stadium. Proceedings start at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, only you won’t be able to watch them on NBC until at least an hour later. At a press conference yesterday, NBC execs announced plans to broadcast the ceremony at 8 p.m. Eastern Time and 7 p.m. Central Time, each on one hour delays, and at 7 p.m. Mountain Time and 8 p.m. Pacific Time, on two and four-hour delays respectively.

So why the need for anywhere between a one and four our delay to watch the opening ceremony? Two reasons. First, forget all of that hyperconnectivity thing we just talked about, this shit has to only air during prime time. Also, without post-production and planned narration of the ceremony, you viewers won’t get all of the great story lines NBC wants to feed you.

By doing a short tape-delay of one hour, it allows us to put it in a time period when more people are home to watch, because it is a Friday night and they get out of their commute or home from wherever they are. And it allows us to curate it with the narrative and storytelling of our announcers to explain what’s going on. And it allows us to put in commercials without cutting out large chunks of the show.

Also, the opening ceremony is really for all of the penis-less viewers out there. And we all know how the ladies don’t really like sports but do like their soap operas, amirite?

The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.

Now, to the point about the prime time coverage. Look, hyperconnected or not, it is certainly true that many adults only have certain hours of the day to which they can dedicate some couch-time and watch a bunch of people from a bunch of countries walk around in a circle for a while. But that doesn’t mean NBC couldn’t also stream the ceremony live for those that want it live. The commentary might be pared down and perhaps we wouldn’t get all of the juicy narrative NBC wants to inject for lady viewers, who we all know universally hate sports and all that, but there is value to live coverage that many people want. It’s not just a small number of sports writers.

As for that context it claims it needs to inject, that’s not the whole story. What the delay really allows NBC to do is inject commercials wherever it wants without omitting any countries from the ceremony while also being able to cut out any undesirable content (i.e. political content) that shows up in the ceremony.

NBC has an incentive to air the ceremony live, but by delaying, they are sacrificing the chance to be first so they can tailor the coverage, cut out any shenanigans, and pick the best places to cut away to commercial. And, of course, cut anything controversial. As Gary Zenkel, NBCSG’s president, pointed out, it’s a show, not a competition.

Which, fine, if NBC wants to act as the speech filter for its viewers, so be it. But who is going to be surprised when NBC also screams bloody murder at people seeing results, highlights, and even coverage of the opening ceremony that will be available on other streams from other nations’ broadcasts, on Twitter and Facebook and the like? NBC can’t seriously delay its coverage and get mad when all the customers whose demands it ignores move on to other options.

But that’s exactly what will happen. We’ve been here before, after all. And no matter how “live” these Olympics are this go-round, delaying the broadcast and stream of the opening ceremony leads me to believe I know exactly how it will go this time too.

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Comments on “NBC's 'Most Live Olympics Ever' Will Have A One Hour Broadcast Delay For The Opening Ceremony”

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CanadianByChoice (profile) says:

Re: So...

Olympi.. errr .. “the big international sports event” … season is always ad free here – I don’t turn the TV or radio on.
Seriously, they (NBC) should toe the line and comply with every single law, rule and regulation of every country in the world for this broadcast.
In China, Russia and Korea, it won’t be shown because it may contain subversive ideas. No spectators can be shown (“publicity rights”, invasion of privacy), no athletes can be shown (IOC rules and publicity rights), the “ring symbol” cannot be depicted (copyright), no architecture can be shown (copyright) .. you get the idea.
If they do that, they don’t have to delay the show at all, nor cut anything out specifically for commercials (because there is nothing left to cut out). So, for the duration of the show time, it’s just never ending commercials about .. anything BUT the Oly… “the big international sports event”

TheResidentSkeptic says:

Really sad part

..is that they have no clue why the ratings and viewership keep dropping.

When it was all about the sports and the athletes, it was great to watch.

Now that the Olympics is all about lawyers and profit – I have no desire at all to watch their tightly controlled version.

I’ll wait for the youtube highlights (that should piss ’em off)

Telly says:

Re: NBC Has No Clue

Yup, the NBC Executive Producer for this Olympics TV coverage is Jim Bell — who was fired as Producer of the NBC TODAY SHOW… for low ratings.

He has a B.A. in Government fro Harvard University — just the kinda guy who you’d expect to be clueless about business and satisfying consumers.

After he screws up this Olympics coverage… Hillary can hire him as U.S. Ambassador to Brazil.

Benjamin says:

Delay for Opening Ceremony (possible legit reasons?)

If they are delaying it so that women will be more entertained as they shape the broadcast, it makes sense not air it live-streamed on the internet. Follow my thoughts:
Most women I know are attached to their smartphones and if they see negative reviews of something (usually via social media) just before they are planning to watch it, it detracts from their viewing experience. We know the internet is full of people waiting for any opportunity to the first/loudest to share their opinion. The Olympics are a perfect opportunity to show the world they can be ‘FIRST’.
Example: My wife avoids Facebook the few hours before the Bachelor/Bachelorette finale as she wants to ‘enjoy’ (her words, not mine) the show without it being spoiled by knowing the end beforehand.
So, this may be a factor in NBC’s planning and, taking the article above into consideration, this could actually make sense to them.

Ruby says:

Re: Delay for Opening Ceremony (possible legit reasons?)

As a woman, no, just no.

That is a ridiculous and asinine statement from start to finish.

And, for fun, here’s my lady memory of the 2012 Games:

Sitting in my bedroom raging on Twitter along with another US based lady friend as all our international lady friends watched the Opening Ceremonies together and live Tweeted it before finally finding a (non-legit, of course) stream so we could at least share half the experience with our friends.

Apparently, this time around is going to be a repeat of that fuckery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Delay for Opening Ceremony (possible legit reasons?)

Sitting in my bedroom raging on Twitter along with another US based lady friend as all our international lady friends watched the Opening Ceremonies together and live Tweeted it before finally finding a (non-legit, of course) stream so we could at least share half the experience with our friends.

Probably one of the few perks of living so close to an international border…I can watch OTA broadcasts from another country (legally) and see the entire opening ceremony live, with out the stupid talking heads and the commercials.

Sure, I live in a Constitution free zone, but at least I don’t have to deal with NBC’s fuckery.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Delay for Opening Ceremony (possible legit reasons?)

Your comment makes no sense. If streamed live worldwide, nobody has the chance to jump in “first” and spoil anything for people wanting to watch it live. Everyone is watching at the same time However, NBC are here introducing an artificial one hour delay, meaning that everyone else in the world will have seen the ceremony and have their discussion before those poor defenceless females you mention can see it.

Your argument is an argument against NBC’s delays, not an argument for it.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Delay for Opening Ceremony (possible legit reasons?)

I think the idea is that “if it’s live-streamed when most people aren’t home to watch it yet, those people will be spoiled on it by social-media comments from people who are in a position to watch it, before they can get in position to watch the delayed version”. Or something like that.

It’s a fairly weak argument, but it at least seems to make internal sense when read that way.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Delay for Opening Ceremony (possible legit reasons?)

Again, not really. It would make sense if you think that only Americans are going to watch it, and even then if the only way they will watch it is on NBC. Given the comments about US-produced shows that premiere in the US first, I suspect he hasn’t thought about what happens when they don’t have a monopoly.

Of course, the scenario utterly false on both counts. Americans who want to watch it live will find a way to bypass the artificial window, so some people will still be talking about it. Meanwhile, the Olympics are a truly global event, with Americans only making up a fraction of viewership. The internet will be filled with commentators from the other 200+ countries watching the games, regardless of whether NBC are streaming it yet or not.

Unless the poor pretty headed little females in his scenario manage to stay away from any kind of internationally available forum during the delayed hour, this scheme pretty much guarantees they will be spoiled. Which is the opposite of the argument he’s intending to make. It’s not just weak, it completely counter-productive.

Whatever says:


This story honestly is garbage. Some borderline misogynistic references and a whole bunch of crap assumptions, it’s almost like Karl wrote it.

Let’s see. Moving the opening ceremony (you know, the one with no drama about who wins) into relative prime time seems like a no brainer. No, it won’t be live, but honestly, DOES IT MATTER? Live and most people miss it or delayed by an hour and somewhat time compressed seems like a good choice here.

Moreover, the “most live” is in no small part because the events are happening in a time zone that is very convenient for the US. It makes it very much more realistic to run stuff live instead of the usual up to 12 hour delay (because few people want to be up at 3 in the morning to watch women’s shot put or what have you). It also allows them to use prime time for “best from today” coverage and that’s pretty good too.

I think you are making a truly big deal out of nothing particularly serious.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Tripe

“No, it won’t be live, but honestly, DOES IT MATTER?”

To a lot of people, yes it does. Yet again, you mistake your own deluded opinion as fact, then refuse to accept anyone else’s honestly held opinion truly exists.

“Live and most people miss it or delayed by an hour and somewhat time compressed seems like a good choice here.”

In other words, the great unwashed are incapable of making their own decisions and making their own preferred choice and/or operating a DVR and must therefore bow down to the superior choices of a major corporation who knows what’s best for them. Typical spin for you.

“Moreover, the “most live” is in no small part because the events are happening in a time zone that is very convenient for the US.”

Which is stated in the article. You not only refuse to admit valid alternative opinions exist, you steal those stated in the article you’re commenting on and pretend they’re your original points! All while attacking the author for having faulty opinions. Amazing…

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Tripe

Sarcasm detector failure detected. He’s commenting on women just like the NBC.

Ahem. If I want something live I want something live, the criticism is welcome. They don’t have the right to delay something because reasons. They can offer the delayed option for those who value their awesome commentary but at the very least offer a real live event.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Tripe

But, can’t you see? HE doesn’t care about seeing it live, so it’s OK for NBC to remove the option from everyone because they think it makes them more money that way. The opinions of anyone negatively impacted are null and void because they don’t match his own, and the only choice in the matter should be whichever corporation’s in charge, not the viewer.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Tripe

“No, it won’t be live, but honestly, DOES IT MATTER?”

Not to me, as I’m not watching any of it.

However, it should matter a lot to people if their concern is actually to reduce the drive for people to watch the Olympics through unauthorized sources.

NBC is ignoring a market-based solution to that problem when they avoid meeting an actual consumer demand.

Wickedsmack (profile) says:

What I would like to see

For a while now I have been trying to reason out how to make the Olympics less of a drain. The only real solution I could come up with was perhaps having 5 permanent sites for summer games and 3 for winter games. The US, China, Russia, and a couple of sites in Europe could be the permanent sites for summer. Each country participating kicks in a bit of scratch to cover the event and the host country is specifically in charge of upkeep and readiness of the site when their turn comes around. The winter olympics should really be done where there is winter. Lillehammer was an ideal site, I think Denver could work and of course there are other sites, like maybe something in the alps that are the permenant sites for the winter games. Again each country kicks in a bit and the country hosting uses the funds to prepare the area for the games. I think its ridiculous that each host country is stuck with the entire burden of the games. This way you know what to expect from the venue, the infrastructure could be put in place well before the games instead of months before and the facilities would already be in place. Just my two cents, it just seems odd one country has to play so much just to host them when the burden clearly could be shared amongst the participating countries which sort of espouses the values of the Olympics anyway.

John85851 (profile) says:

Why can't the IOC move the time?

Why can’t NBC tell the IOC to move the time to 8:00pm Eastern? I think the “more people will be watching at that time” argument is pretty sound.
And, better yet, why can’t the opening ceremonies pause every 3 minutes for a commercial break, like football games?
I guess paying billions to the IOC to be the official broadcaster just doesn’t buy as much as it used to.

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