NBC has heard your complaints, America, and they have a message for those who are whining about the dearth of live event coverage at the Winter Olympics: We don't really care.
Other media outlets are picking up on the viewer outrage and doing their best to channel it toward the Peacock Network—and the network has been less than receptive. Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd has a rather amusing article (in a "you can't be serious" kind of way) about trying to set up an interview with Christopher McCloskey, NBC Universal's vice president for communications, who is based in Vancouver. He was happy to chat! "On background" only. Yes, the vice president for communications refused to give an on-the-record quote to a journalist. Brilliant.
(By the way, if you'd like to give an on-the-record quote to Chris McCloskey, you can try reaching him here: Christopher.Mccloskey@nbcuni.com or 212-664-5598.)
However, McCloskey did speak on record with the Boston Globe's Eric Wilbur and naturally, Chris doesn't see what the problem is. The "Miracle On Ice" was on tape delay and that was good enough for America in 1980! So what's wrong with you 2010 babies?
According to McCloskey, NBC will deliver more live coverage during the Vancouver Olympics than any other Winter Games before them across its family of networks. Figure skating will be live every night in addition to hockey games, curling matches, and freestyle skiing events.
"Yet, we still can't make everybody happy," he said.
Hey, four out of 15 disciplines isn't bad! Of course, that's only if you live east of the Mississippi. The Mountain and Pacific times zones (where the Olympics actually take place) are still on a full delay. Zero live events. And unfortunately, that's where the ratings are the highest. As far as the suits are concerned, their strategy is vindicated.
NBC claims that most Americans don't care if the broadcasts are live, and that's probably true. Most of them work during the day and can only watch at night, so it honestly makes no difference to them when the sports were recorded. NBC caters to those folks, because they believe the Olympics are sports for people who don't care about sports. The outrage is coming mostly from sports fans, who are obsessed enough to follow live scoreboards during the day and DVR events they can't be home for and know that sports provide enough real drama that it doesn't need to be manufactured by highlight packages. They love sports enough that they will watch imperfect coverage of pre-taped events. Why break your back making them happy?
The people NBC needs to woo aren't sports fans. They broadcast the Olympics for people who like stories about polar bears and gymnasts with rare diseases and speed skaters whose sisters have cancer. Yes, these people are out there and to justify the insane investment dollars they have to watch too. It's a mini-series that happens to have some sports in it.
However, if the "Miracle on Ice" happened today and it hadn't been available to watch live, 30 Rock would be burned to the ground and Jeff Zucker would put to sea on a barge. "You can't please everyone" isn't an excuse to not try. Set aside sports networks for sports. Partner with ESPN, Versus, and the Golf Channel if necessary, and show everything live that's possible to show live. Then later that evening, the casual, human-interest obsessed viewer can still tune in and enjoy a night of spoiler-free Olympic television. The network is giving away the results on its own website ("live blog" does not equal "live coverage", btw) so there is no justification for maintaining the surprise.
The casual fan would never notice the difference and sports fans everywhere would love them for it. It wouldn't be that hard to please everybody, if only NBC would try.
What Olympic tape-delay controversy? NBC still doesn't get it [Seattle Times Newspaper]
NBC: No apology for delay of game [Boston Globe]
Even The Dutch Dislike NBC's Coverage [Slanch Report]
Hate the 3-hour Olympics time delay? Here's who to blame [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]