Monday, August 22, 2016

Squawk Box: Games of the XXXI Olympiad

I don't know why an American television network can't seem to figure out how to do decent Olympic coverage, but they can't. NBC's coverage has been universally panned as riddled with unnecessary tape delays, commercials, fluff and human interest stories instead of sports and an intense focus on all things Team USA related at the expense of the larger story going on at the games themselves. (Though I'm willing to give them some leeway on that last score. This is America, after all, so in competitions like these, it's generally Team USA and 'all them other people from the funny foreign places.')

But in general, it sort of sucks. Why did I spend so much of prime time watching swimming, swimming, swimming and nothing but swimming? Why did gymnastics wait until an ungodly late hour of the night to even begin? I don't care about Michael Phelps vs Ryan Lochte! At this point, their whole rivalry is a horse that NBC has beaten to death years ago. From across the pond, the Telegraph has a particularly scathing review that's worth reading, but buried deep in the article is this god-awful section:
John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, claimed a month before the Olympics that women were more interested in 'the journey' of each competitor than the sport itself.
"The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans," he said.
"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."
 Oh, so that's why their coverage sucks out loud. They're pandering to some sexist notion of what women actually want...  ugh. (That's not the worst of the sexism, by the way. More fun gems await you in that Telegraph article, but hey, there's this too! Yay!)

Call me crazy, but the whole point of the Olympics is the actual damn sport. I don't care about the fluff and the human interest pieces- now, do you want to have a special hour on like Sunday nights or late nights devoted to 'THE JOURNEY' or whatever NBC execs think the ladies want to hear about, then go for it. But in today's world, there's is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not showing every single bit of these games LIVE. Especially since Rio is like an hour ahead of Eastern Time. (Then, your primetime coverage can be all the exciting highlights/medal finals that people missed at work, if they aren't watching live.)

But the whole excess fluff, not enough sport problem has been around since I was in high school. In fact, I think I gave what was supposed to be a five minute speech on a topic of my choosing about how much the media coverage sucked, but no one stopped me, so my speech ended up being thirteen minutes or so- and that was in the 9th Grade.

What didn't suck? Streaming. It sucks that it takes a cable subscription to get at the full range of streaming options, but holy cow, was it nice to just pick a sport I wanted to watch and just watch it without incessant commercials and god awful commentary. Plus, it meant that I could catch sports and events that would never in a million years see the light of day on prime time coverage.

In today's world, there's just little to no excuse for being so bad at this. There's little to no excuse for not actually showing the games live- or, more to the point, showing all the medals being awarded. That should be the goal. And while NBC is paying out the behind for the rights to the Olympics, they're undoubtedly making money hand over fist. Or someone is, and if it's enough money, they don't have to care about how they do this.

But, watch the streaming model. Cable ain't going to be around forever and I can envision a day where NBC pops up and says, 'hey, want to watch it all? 20 bucks gets you full access- with or without a cable subscription.' I'd happily pay for the privilege to watch what I want, when I want to watch it- without inane commentary and all the excess annoying things that go along with it.

(Slate had an interesting interview with Dwight Stones that's worth a listen. Needless to say. he's not a fan of NBC's Track and Field coverage.)

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