Journalists worldwide are giving their final opinions on the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and I thought I’d chime in as well. NBC’s broadcast of the 2008 Beijing Games brought on varying emotions throughout the two weeks for everyone, both good and bad. People across the Country seemed to be both happy and mad at the network’s coverage at various times throughout the two week span and my feelings probably don’t differ from all of theirs all that much.
I personally enjoyed many aspects of the coverage and after bashing them, and NBC, for just about the whole Summer, I was certainly impressed at times with the end product. The majority of the announcers were very knowledgeable of the Sports they covered and every host and reporter appeared genuinely interested in the country of China and topics they covered. Cris Collinsworth said last night that these Games provided a great place for the World to forget about its problems for two weeks, and I couldn’t agree more.
With that said, there were mulitple frustrating elements of NBC’s programming that infuriated viewers in the U.S. and across the globe. In the States, everywhere but the East Coast suffered by not being able to see live events and even those in the East were “blacked out” of monumental and record breaking performances. Let’s delve into this a bit more with the good, the bad and the ugly of the broadcast and then I’ll give you some announcing winners and losers.
The Good- Sheer Numbers and The FOBs
Given that these Games were across the World from us in Beijing, I think that NBC did an admirable job of getting at least some of the contests to us live (well at least for us East Coasters). I don’t even remember watching the past two Summer Olympics (Athens and Australia) because barely any of the event were aired as they took place and the change this year was certainly welcomed. It obviously wasn’t perfect, but for Gymnastics and Swimming at least they seemed to get it right. I personally thought that 3600 hours of coverage was an insane undertaking but for the most part, they pulled it off in the end.
Bob Costas and his FOB’s were also a “good” for the Peacock during these Olympics. I truly enjoyed the excitement of Bela Karolyi and the heartfelt love for his Sport. Collinsworth and Carillo didn’t really give us anything groundbreaking but both filled a lot of the downtime with at least somewhat interesting stories. Costas himself pulled no punches in delivering controversial pieces himself and his interview with George W. Bush was surprisingly eye-opening. I don’t think anyone else has gotten more out of the Leader of the Free World in eight years.
Obviously numbers don’t lie and through sixteen days of coverage over 211 million people tuned in. That makes the 2008 Summer Olympics on NBC, the most viewed event in U.S. television history. Even though there are no other programs considered “events” other than the Olympics within the ratings system (not even the Super Bowl), that’s a heck of a lot of people.
The Bad- Online and Post Phelps Coverage
It’s hard to find fault in a network that aired events live online for free and gave of us one of the most awesome performances we’ve ever seen, but I’m going to try. There are reports that NBC’s online content only made a quarter of the ad revenue that March Madness did and that’s pretty mind blowing given the number of people that signed in online. The network actually decided against airing certain events on the platform (I.E.- Usain Bolt) and in turn hurt the final product that it put out there for customers and even advertisers.
(Now my personal relationship with NBC Universal’s Piracy Department aside) It was more than frustrating that they billed NBCOlympics.com as the go to site for every live event, when that certainly wasn’t even close to being true. They also didn’t even make their videos available for embedding and promotion on other sites (not just blogs). They seemingly ruined their chances at a big payday and record numbers online with that move alone.
As far as post-Phelps coverage, the absence of one individual illustrated exactly how he alone gave NBC the boost they needed in the ratings. After Phelps left the pool, NBC only surpassed the ratings of the Sydney Olympics on one night out of seven. The Games in total were 7% higher than those in 2000 and that percentage is all Phelps.
The Ugly: “Live Events”
I think we’ve beat this one into the ground but the live/delayed coverage across the country was reprehensible. I still don’t understand how if Swimming and Gymnastics started at 10/11pm on the East Coast that they couldn’t be aired live in West Coast primetime, but I’m not a TV exec. It’s completely unrealistic to think that someone could go through an entire day/night and not hear or see a result. When you’re also not airing the most important events live online just to save them for TV….you’re going to piss a good number of people off.
There’s absolutely no way they can do this again in London, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Bob Costas (see above)
Ato Bolden (Track and Field)- Provided great insight to running events for a rookie
Bela Karyoli (FOB)- “BEAUTIFUL!!!!”
Dan Hicks (Swimming)- The call of the 4×100 Free Relay will be replayed for decades
Tim Ryan (Rowing and Canoeing)- A vet of the Games but continues to impress
Mike Breen (Basketball)- Solidifying himself as the second voice of the NBA after Marv.
Doug Collins (Basketball)- When not talking about himself, he’s one of the best analysts out there (I still can’t stand him though)
Bob Papa (Boxing)- Anybody who can work well with (and understand) Teddy Atlas is a winner in my book
Andrew Catalon (Handball)- I didn’t know this until recently but Handball is exciting as hell. So are the announcers.
Bill Clement(Various)- He called events from Shooting to Table Tennis and was even sideline reporter for Badminton. He was solid throughout.
Kirch Kiraly (Beach Volleyball)- Exactly what an ex-athlete analyst should sound like covering his/her Sport.
Cynthia Potter (Diving)- MSMers applauded her but I couldn’t stand her. She was negativity personified and coming from me….that’s saying something.
Rowdy Gaines (Swimming)- The Doug Collins of Swimming
Eric Collins (Baseball)- Just downright boring
Craig Sager (Basketball)- Outside of talking about Hooters the sideline reporter was dreadful. He ruined results from events for West Coasters and even said that if the U.S. beat Argentina they’d “play finalist China on Sunday”.
Andrea Kremer (Swimming)- “How does it feel to win ______ swimming race?” was all she ever asked
Shane Hamman (Weightlifting)– Actual Quote: “What a huge amount of weight! We’re talking a refrigerator, not just a regular refrigerator, but like a big one!”
Al Trautwig (Gymnastics)- Just terrible and the hyperbole was off the charts. He was even quoted as saying this at one point….”The Olympics begin with footprints in the sky.” (Blech!)
There you have it. Overall the Olympics were ultimately just what they’ve always been, a nice distraction. They come at the perfect time during the Sports Calendar, and some of the physical performances amaze you, but are you really starting the four year countdown right now? Didn’t think so. Outside of the live event issues and not utilizing the Internet content correctly, the Games were a success for NBC because they made money.
In the end the bottom line is all that really matters. Who cares if they screw an entire half of the country, right? Right???