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.