Scott D. Pierce: NBC is doing a good job in London
At the risk of sounding like a heretic, NBC is doing a good job telecasting the 2012 Summer Olympics. A very good job.
Production quality is high. Sportscasters have generally done a decent or better job. Primetime host Bob Costas is the best in the business.
Look, this is a massive undertaking. And not everything is even close to perfect. But given the size and scope of what NBC is doing, the network and its staff deserve a big round of applause.
There are well-documented problems, and controversy over tape-delays crops up at every Olympics. NBC maintains that all the people whining and moaning represent but a fraction of viewers.
"We think it is a very loud minority," NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus told reporters in a mid-Games conference call. "The silent majority has been with us."
At the risk of siding with The Man he's probably right. People love to complain about TV in general and televised sports specifically, and on the Internet and Twitter, the complaints feed off each other.
To his credit, Lazarus didn't entirely blow off the criticism.
"Some of it is fair," he said, "and we are listening."
It is, perhaps, the avid sports fans who are complaining the most. But the Olympics aren't just for us. Between 70 million and 100 million of the folks who watched the 2008 Games didn't watch baseball or football on TV.
Remember, even if you (and I) are sick of those human-interest stories that take up air time that could be devoted to actual sporting events, there are a lot of people out there who love those things.
And NBC has plenty of evidence that a whole lot of people are happy with what the network is doing the record-setting ratings.
Shortly before the Games, NBC was projecting a $200 million loss on London; the network is now cautiously optimistic about making a bit of a profit because of the best ratings of any Summer Olympics since the Games were first televised.
And those numbers are coming despite the fact that nothing is being telecast live in primetime. Because nothing is being contested in that time slot as a result of the time difference.
In that same conference call, NBC's research guru, Alan Wurtzel, offered up some information that undercuts the network's way of doing business, however. He said that two-thirds of people who know the results of events before NBC airs them said they would still watch. And people who watched events live on the Internet earlier in the day spent more time watching the tape-delayed telecast than those who did not.
Which begs the obvious question why not show those events live, either on the NBC broadcast network or one of NBC's cable networks?
This problem is not going away. It's a 10-hour difference between Salt Lake City and Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Games, so it's all going to be tape-delayed.
It will be less of a problem in 2016, when the Summer Games are in Rio de Janeiro. But only in the eastern half of the United States. It's still a three-hour time difference to Salt Lake City.
London events that are being seen live on NBC during the day in the Eastern and Central time zones are being shown on a one-hour tape-delay here in Utah. For no apparent reason. That's the sort of thing that drives viewers crazy. And makes that "loud minority" at least a bit bigger.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
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