I'm going to share my own personal thoughts on this, from how I see it. You might not agree (but then, we don't have to agree on everything) and that's fine. This is just to give you some food for thought.
First of all, we can recognize that things need to change in terms of live coverage. Not just for the Olympic Games, but in general. I'll get to this in a minute.
We can also recognize that NBC could do some things better. For instance, I would have loved to see the "Abide with Me" 7/7 tribute during the Opening Ceremony, instead of an interview from Ryan Seacrest. Actually, I would have probably watched the Opening Ceremony twice if it had been streamed live (because I could have watched it on TV later too), and I don't exactly buy NBC's claim that we wouldn't have understood it without the commentating. We probably understood it better than Matt and Meredith.
I also think it's silly to claim that we can all watch it free online, when that's not really true. If you have a cable TV provider, you sure can. If you're like me, you have to find another way (and a friend willing to share a login) to watch events you want to watch live. I don't mind watching coverage on TV, but if I want to watch live, I should have an option (like this article points out, NBC could offer an option to pay for an Olympic package as they did for the Tour de France - I would gladly pony up for the ability to watch live online).
|Sometimes technology isn't everything.|
Now you could argue that this is the only option for some. That's true. If you want to watch the Olympic Games in the U.S., NBC is your guy. They have held broadcast rights for Summer Games since 1988 (2002 for Winter) and they will continue to hold rights until 2020. Personally, I enjoy their coverage. It's sometimes too much, with the fluff and Seacrest now in a position that many (including me) believe should be reserved for those who actually know and understand sport. But those stories and the fluff also teach you a little bit about the athletes, who are really the focus here.
When it comes to social media and the topic of "spoilers" - well, this is not new. I remember 2008 and the Olympic Games. If you were lucky enough to live in Eastern or Central time (you know, as majority of the U.S. does), you got to see many events live. You knew what was happening as it happened, and it wasn't because of Twitter. Because I lived in Colorado, I had to avoid Facebook and texts until I saw the races I wanted to see if I wanted to be surprised. Same thing in 2010. If you lived in Mountain or Pacific time, where the Games were actually happening, you still were forced to watch on a delay.
So while many East-coasters are concerned about the tape delays, this is just part of normalcy for some of us. Why can't we put Mountain and Pacific time zones on the same viewing schedule as Eastern and Central for two weeks? We do it for the NCAA tournament. For the Superbowl. For the Oscars. That's about it, unless it's a cable broadcast.
But I get it. It has to do with money, and contracts, and what NBC (and other broadcasters) believe people want to see. While people are shaking their fists and shouting about the primetime coverage, at least for now, it's done. It's not going to be so easy to change a contract for advertising during a primetime show now that the Games have started. Maybe NBC should have aired the Lochte/Phelps showdown in the 400 I.M. on TV, live, instead of relying on online streams and the tape-delayed race in primetime. But when your content plan is laid out (with advertising no less), it's not always so easy to change midway through.
My other thought? NBC didn't realize people would prefer a television broadcast over live streams online. In such a digital age, when everyone is linked in all the time (maybe too often), they thought they were providing an excellent alternative in the form of live streams (which, like I said, don't help those of us without cable but are great for people who want to watch as it is happening).
I can't say any of this for sure, because I am just an observer and long-time Olympic fan, and not some kind of television executive. I believe that NBC thought they could offer something to appease the masses (live streaming) while continuing a formula that has obviously worked for them in the past. Times are changing, and our event coverage needs to catch up with the world we live in, absolutely, but it's not going to change today, or tomorrow. Keep in mind though, it wasn't that long ago that we either had to watch the broadcast or find out who won an event by reading the newspaper, and that the Paralympic Games still won't be broadcast in the U.S. at all this year.
There may be a better answer to the question of Olympic coverage in the future - you know it, and I know it. But for now? I want to just watch the Games, cheer for Team USA and celebrate the successes of our athletes, whether I find out about it on Twitter moments after it happens or I wait until 7 p.m. to watch it on TV.
(I have some positive things to say about the Olympic Games as always, but I'll save it for another post.)