Monday, August 22, 2016

Fans to NBC: Fix Your Olympic Coverage. Also, Mario!

I'm going to use today's post to talk about the Rio Olympics. So that you all don't feel like you have to suffer through paragraphs of my prattling, I'll start with the gaming tie-in. Part of the closing ceremonies includes a presentation by the next host country; passing the "baton" to the future games. Tokyo, Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics and they came out in style. Offering a bevy of visual candy for gamers, Nintendo teamed up with the delegation to bring Mario to Rio. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared on the stage from a green warp pipe, decked out in Mario gear after the video presentation. It was everything that we needed it to be. With the games taking place in Tokyo, it's going to be high tech and nerdy all the way.

It's also going to be a more anticipated Olympics in terms of structure and decorum. Rio has had nothing but trouble over the past year with cleaning up their waterways (which was still not completed in time), the Zika virus outbreak, government and economic instability, and a high crime rate. Rio was everything the IOC wanted to avoid. But somehow they were able to cobble together an effective games. Enough to keep people from not seeing the problems around Rio and now the country will have to deal with the clean-up. A number of residences were demolished to make room for new stadiums, that will probably remain unused after the Olympics. They will have to deal with the monetary fall-out, the mounting debt, and the low return from ticket sales.

Because Tokyo is a city with decades of a solid infrastructure behind it, including a green environment, virtually no crime, and high standard of living, not only would it be able to efficiently run the games, any new venues built will have long-standing use. It's not a "one and done" scenario in Japan. Many of the venues from the 1998 Winter games are still utilized for training and competitions.

My problem with the Rio Olympics this year isn't so much the mounting troubles of the cities - though that should be addressed immediately if Brazil expects the populous to back them on future projects. Rather, it's the poor coverage of NBC. The network secured a multi-Olympic, billion dollar deal years ago and will have coverage through 2032. This is the first Olympics where NBC offered online streaming of most events as they happened, but it did require that you have a cable subscription. Their prime-time content was focused on the bigger events and, as always, just the US team.

This year in particular, we were smacked upside the head with an onslaught of advertisements and "player background" stories. It was too much and I found myself tuning out regularly. Which sucks because of all the things I look forward to, it's the Olympics. I love the concept behind them, and that for 2 weeks we can all stop being dicks to each other and have fun.

Between the severe tape delays of events, the altering of event times to coincide with NBC's prime-time coverage, and the horrible commentary, the Olympics became difficult to watch. Yes, I just linked to a FOX News article because it gives a decent overview of all the problems with NBC's content. Last night's closing ceremonies, I ended up turning off the television after 15 minutes. The first 7 minutes were nothing but commentary from the NBC anchors. You couldn't hear any of the event music or proceedings. After commercials, it was more of the same and I gave up. It was too much talking about so many random things, and not enough silence to ENJOY the ceremony.

NBC has claimed in the past that they are attempting to attract more female viewers by showcasing athlete's "journey" stories. That women are more likely to tune in to learn more about the history of the competitors and not the events themselves. That may have been the case a few decades ago, but the content from NBC in the 2000 games was not as pervasive on these journeys as they were at Rio. If anything, there were a hindrance from letting the audience watch and appreciate the events in their entirety. I never watched for the athlete stories. I watch to see the games.

So why is this an issue? Well the US is the only country that covers the Olympics in such a manner. Every other country showcases as many of the events as possible, unedited, in real time. All of them. AND! You don't have to have special cable privileges. Anyone with a tv antenna or an internet connection can view.

It doesn't matter if their country is playing a match in Volleyball or not. They still show the event. Sure they may take a few extra minutes to highlight their team's events when they are on the court/field/floor, but they don't make that the focus, followed by 20 minutes of "journey" stories and another 10 minutes of commercials.

Sadly, due to licensing issues, you can't see the other broadcasts in the US without bypassing a few laws. Or if you have a cable subscription. The BBC's coverage of football (soccer) matches was fantastic by comparison to ours. NBC did have 2 channels dedicated to other sports to air in real time, and that was soccer and basketball. Thankfully. Their USA and NBC Sports channel affiliates only covered some of the events, in brief spurts, much like the prime-time broadcast.

Overall: it was a crappy Olympics to watch. The joy of the games was lost by NBC over-reporting on athlete stories that no one cared about, and not giving us full coverage of all of the events. The return of golf and rugby didn't make it to the video coverage. Did you know that we won Gold and Silver in Judo? Kayla Harrison won her second Gold, after receiving the first for the US ever in the 2012 Olympics. Not only is she the first to receive Gold for the US in the event, she's the first to receive back to back Gold. But you probably didn't know, because why would NBC care to cover it?

Hopefully NBC will learn from the feedback, which was surmounting this year after the hashtag #nbcfail appeared on Twitter and Facebook feeds. Tokyo coverage has to be better. We are going to the epicenter of all things technology. If NBC can't get on board with that, then there is no hope that the coverage will change.

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