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.
NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said that delays were necessary in order to “give the context of the show,” and he also said that NBC wanted to go on air at a time when people weren’t busy:
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.
It’s worth pointing out here that NBC hasn’t aired the opening ceremony of a Summer Olympics live since 1996. Of course, 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to see highlights all across the internet before they aired on TV. 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.