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How Do You Rate NBC's Olympics?

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Warning: This story is meant for our U.S. readers only. As many of you already know, I am giving Olympics the miss and perhaps that is why I am not familiar with the daily coverage on NBC and its online properties. The Olympics apparently have proved to be a bonanza for the company. The Peacock Network CEO Jeff Zucker thinks the viewership number of Olympics prove that network television is still dominant. Mattew Ingram says not so fast, buddy, because Olympics come around once every four years. What about rest of the years… when viewership is declining, because somehow viewers can’t make must-see-TV.

[qi:004] Unfortunately, not everyone seems to be pleased with NBC’s coverage — too many ads, inane and bland commentary and time-delay tactics have got people hopping mad. While Zucker seems to be crowing about how well the Olympics are doing online, Rafat Ali of PaidContent points out that Yahoo’s Olympics section beat out, and sees it as a missed opportunity, thanks to what is described as “bottled excitement.” Russell Beattie, a good friend, pointed out in his typical no-bullshit style that NBC has ruined the Olympics. “What should be a privilege for a national broadcaster has been turned into an extortion racket, holding the Olympics hostage with all of us paying the ransom,” he wrote. NewTeeVee’s Chris Albrecht added, “This could have been a golden moment for online video — too bad NBC just couldn’t stick the landing.”

What grade would you give the NBC coverage, both on TV and on the Internet? Take our poll and leave a comment.

73 Responses to “How Do You Rate NBC's Olympics?”

  1. The coverage has been great if you are only interested in swimming or gymnastics. I have managed to see a couple of tennis games but have not been able to see any softball.

  2. @devnet

    Riiight…Like Adobe Flash 9 is FOSS non-‘proprietorial’ “standards” compliant…not to mention super stable. GTFO.

    I swear w/o the bicoastal iBoi infested web2.0 blogflatussphere, people would just get the eff over themselves. Half this agitation comes from uberFanboi’s who feel like their betraying Jobs’ sacred trust by installing Silverlight.

  3. The part I hate about the TV coverage (maybe it’s a TimeWarner specific issue) is the way Olympic coverage is shown in DVR TV guides. There is this 3 hour segment called “XXIX Olympics”, but no breakdown of individual events.

    Impact: If I want to DVR a US Basketball game, I have to record the full 3 hours of coverage.

  4. Geraldine

    I wonder how they can truly criticize communist China, which seems to be all they’re interested in doing. Their coverage is not at all sportsmanlike. If I were interested in the ills of the world I would watch an all news channel, not try to escape and watch humanity at its best. Give me a break! Maybe they should not try to monopolize the coverage, so that the American public would have a more democratic viewing of the games, not be at the mercy of their delayed broadcast of the world’s greatest feats – when the rest of the world is viewing them live.!!!! What gives!!??

  5. Very worst olympics coverage I have seen my entire life. Watching it on NBC just took away my spirit of sports altogether. Too much of talking, too much of marketing, too much of ads. The time delayed telecast and claiming LIVE is just crap. Not showing any other sports than swimming, gymnastics and showing too much of self preaching life history about players was too much to digest. Everyone want to watch some games not how a player was growing up at his/her age of 3, interview with mom, pop, sister, brother-in-law…. Oh man…. I just stopped watching it on tv. Instead just look at official olympics website and satisfied. Not ready to waste my time anymore.

  6. needed less talking during opening ceremonies and more coverage of crowd reactions. if covering more than one event, use split screen approach to keep viewers aware of the event results. quit asking why
    or what motivated contestent to perform as answer will always be the same.

  7. Billy B.

    Everone likes to moan about how the coverage is limited to the popular sports and the top 5 countries that matter to Americans. How then can you explain that I watched a women’s handball match between Romania and Norway yesterday on MSNBC? The coverage is far from perfect, but the combination of 5 television networks airing near constant coverage, plus the online options are far superior to any past Olympics.

    Now if they could just find someone less schmaltzy than Jimmy Roberts to do the athlete profiles, that would be a major improvement.

  8. Neil Tomlin

    I have to ignore your opening warning to echo the first commenter’s views. I live in Ireland and we have the luxury of coverage across 3 different networks (RTE, BBC and Eurosport). I can say without a doubt that it has been brilliant all round. BBC’s digital interactive service is superb. I haven’t seen any of NBC’s coverage but I imagine it is similar to American TV coverage of most major sporting events i.e ad-heavy with inane self-referential commentary which caters to the lowest common denominator.


    I have been watching the Olympics on NBC for the past week. I will say that the opening ceremonies were very well done and interesting to watch. Beyond that, I have seen more inane commercials than olympic activities. Also, constant studio narratives with Bob Costas rather than seeing events live that are going on.
    I also feel that the judges are completely biased in their judging the gymnastic competition and are delighted at shafting the USA on just about every single gymnastic event and are openly giving the Chinese the gold medals even when they stumble, as in the vault. I believe that the men and women should have been graded a lot higher in many of the events. It seems that there is no accountability in the new scoring system. No one files a protest against the judging and even if they did, there is no recourse to justify the lousy scoring against the United States. Former Gymnastic USA Mgr. Kyrola even discussed this unfairness in the scoring at length with Bob Costas. It just seems that they can judge any event and give any scoring points to anyone without them being investigated. Pretty sorry spectacle and a sad development to our guys and gals. I probably wont watch much of the next weeks events.

  10. driveby

    On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being stinks like a pile of turd and 10 being excellent: a big fat zero. Don’t know which is lamer: tape-delaying the coverage, or ranking countries by total medal count instead of total gold medals as has been customary since the first olive wreath was won, because heaven forbid that the US would lose to the Commies.

  11. NBC’s coverage really blows.

    The Olympics are where the world comes together to see who the greatest athletes are. NBC’s network coverage is so US biased it’s impossible to see what’s really happening. Entire dramas, epic competitions, big stories are just not even making onto the screen. I only really realized how out of whack the coverae was when I watched coverage in the UK and Oz via Bit Torrent.

    It’s also very hard to tell what will be on when. is really frustrating. Hard to navigate, almost impossible to find what you want even days after the event. Let alone if you want to watch something around the time it happens. Effectively useless to me.

    I have a 60″ HDTV but out of sheer desperation I am now watching most of the Olympics via Bit Torrent on a laptop

    Here’s to the accelerating decline of the gatekeepers. Like the event itself other countries are doing this so much better

  12. I’m not sure why this elicits such polarized reactions. Here’s the thing. Aside from the Silverlight issue, which really bothers me, I think it would be really hard for someone to say that NBC’s coverage is “crap” with a straight face. The combined NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and USA mean you get pretty much anything you want to see. Some of it is live. Some isn’t. I’m a die hard indoor volleyball fan. They’ve broadcast every U.S. Men’s and Women’s matches. Every day there’s about 30+ hours of Olympics coverage. So, come on, folks, what more are you asking for?

    This is just silly. Something for people to try and find something to be critical of because it makes them feel smarter?

    Frankly, the only complaint I have is that I don’t have a DVR that can record 3 or 4 channels at the same time.

  13. What was even more lame was the local NBC coverage Saturday night after the Phelps extravaganza. Their “report from a local bar” managed to find a place full of Green Bay Packer fans; and their follow up story was about a pooch on Prozac.

    And we wonder why the mainstream media is in decline. No wait, we don’t.

  14. I have been watching the online coverage, which I would rate a B. I would rate it an A, but for a couple of reasons:

    1) Silverlight is really ASS SLOW. The downstairs media PC, which we used since it runs XP MCE and is attached to the TV, has a Pentium 4/3.2GHz processor. Silverlight/Firefox was using 100% of its CPU, and we actually decided to overclock the computer so we could watch the Olympics without dropped frames. 20 minutes of research later, we had overclocked it to 3.6GHz/220MHz FSB and the Olympics videos were BEAUTIFUL. But imagine the experience of most people who aren’t complete geeks like us! I don’t consider a P4/3.2GHz to be obsolete (even though it is an older single-core architecture), and we don’t have a problem streaming Netflix Live off of that same PC.

    2) No full-screen option. What the heck? Also, we used an ad blocker to block the banner ad because they had some Javascript that hicupped the video every time it switched an ad.

    BUT…I must say…even though I hope they fix both of these issues for next time, I really enjoyed watching table tennis online. I’d never seen it played competitively, and I loved watching it live! Also, I didn’t miss having commentators. If anything, the online streams show how little the commentators add.

    I watched some network coverage, and it’s just not watchable without a TiVO. Way too many ads, and no coverage of any other country other than our “hometown heroes.” Costas was a terrible interviewer. I kept coming back to the online site instead of bothering to watch the network coverage. I have a Tivo, but couldn’t even really be bothered to record it, since I knew I would just have to wade through hours of crap to find the two or three good highlights.

  15. 45% crap?!?

    Come on people, especially people like Curtis, let’s get a grip.

    Have we Americans become so snooty and spoiled that we thumb our noses at anything that isn’t absolutely perfect and exactly to our taste?

    Good lord, I’m really getting tired of the constant criticism that’s become so fashionable these days.

    Can we possibly look at the bright side of things now and again?

  16. It is UNBELIEVABLY LAME that last night, at around 8pm on the West Coast, as Michael Phelps was setting one of the most amazing records in all of sports (8th Gold), NBC on the West Coast was broadcasting:
    a. Hour 1.5 of the woman’s marathon, on it’s main station.
    b. Prison horror stories on MSNBC
    c. Something equally lame on CNBC
    Not seeing anything worth watching on NBC, I turned to a meaningless pre-season football game on another network – and THEY flash on the stadium’s big screen: “Congratulation Michael Phelps — 8 Gold Medals!”, seconds after the actual event occurred.

    What idiotic NBC executive decided to tape delay the top athletic event of the last 25 years (Phelp’s swim for Gold medal #8) instead of showing it live at prime-time. It was the opportunity of a generation for NBC to build excitement for live coverage of the event. They completely blew it.

  17. Was there ever an Olympics in recent memory where people liked the main broadcast coverage? The problems of too many commercials, USA-only focus, not much beyond swimming, gymnastics and beach blanket volleyball are just the obvious oldteevee mechanics of ensuring enough eyeballs for the ads that pay for the outrageous rights fees.

    The Olympics are just too big and too large a monetary risk to move radically to viewing on demand or a la carte programming. Someday it may get there, but it will likely be smaller “big” events like golf tournaments or the NCAA hoops tourney that move fast first and demonstrate that there are different ways to “broadcast” something and reach additive audiences.

    For the foreseeable future, however, we are all stuck with the Al Trautwigs of the world and incessant commercial messages that now even encroach on the few seconds alloted to the Olympic fanfares. This is the price you pay for “free” content on a large scale, and it isn’t going away anytime soon because there are still millions who will watch the Olympics in passive couch-potato fashion. Until a majority learns how to use DVRs or Internet feeds, it ain’t getting any better.

  18. I give it an ok. The coverage has been all right and the timeshifting doesn’t bother me personally. I’m not expecting to see much live and if I do (such as the Phelps race), I stay away from the Web.

    However the announcing is Bah-rutal. I mostly watch volleyball and if I have to hear again about the kinesio tape or how Todd Rogers’ nickname is “The Professor” or that Dalhauser is tall and bald, I’m going to snap.

    Just now, the announcers said “Rogers has a masters in religious studies and he certainly showed a lot of faith in his swing there”

    Worst line ever.

  19. As the broadest attempt by a network to integrate new forms of media into a major event, NBC has done a good job.
    But Om’s boycott is the type of thing that NBC is avoiding. They are focusing on the sports but willfully ignoring the significant human rights issues that surround the Chinese government. The coverage has, unfortunately, come off as an advertorial for China.
    NBC has blown an incredible opportunity inside of the Great Firewall to show China in its true colors, good and band, and for that NBC owes its viewers an apology. They have monopolistic coverage and are only using one lens that sees China exactly how its PR department hopes.
    We hear a tune that ends “the land of the free and the home of the brave” frequently during NBC’s coverage; it’s a shame that NBC is showing its cowardice by ignoring China’s perspective on freedom.

  20. i would say ‘worst olympics coverage ever’ but i guess it’s better than seeing only very selected snips on the weekly newsreel. that said, i think it’s ridiculous that NBC tried to use Tiki Barber to explain the intricacies of the new gymnastics scoring system. he was a running back, for american football, when was he ever expected to understand math? it would be nice to have some people who actually tried to learn something about the sports they are covering rather than making fun of something they don’t understand.

  21. Om,

    Unquestionably the worst olympic coverage that i’ve witnessed in my entire life. How bad is the coverage:

    1. It’s not live though the coverage says “Live”

    2. Bob Costas is proof that Jim McKay has no olympics equal (at least none as of yet)

    3. NBC commentary is for 5th graders who have already been sent to special learning.

    4. NBC hasn’t figured out that ALL of the games have more countries competing than the US, China, Russia, Germany, Australia, the UK, and Canada – and yes it is okay to show more than 3 of them for a given competition.

    5. 24 hour television and internet coverage would have been fantastic, but much too complicated for NBC’s narrow minded incompetence.

    6. NBC’s consistent inability to recognize that they’re receiving “audience lift” from television viewership in China (the world’s largest market and current olympic host), and will be embarrassed by their drop off for the next olympic games because they won’t be able to explain it to their shareholders or anyone else for that matter.

    7. The fact that I had to endure two weeks of NBC’s crappy coverage in support of my wife who had been a lifelong gymnast though she never made the olympic team but spent her formative years with the Karolyis as her coaches, as well as living and training at the US Women’s Gynastics Training Center while I could have been watching great coverage of major league baseball on any network other than NBC.

    8. Too many commercials.

    9. Too many promotions of upcoming NBC programs that will suck.

    10. NBC’s hippocrisy – Issued press release that they would not air the protest of the Swedish wrestler as “the games are about sportsmanship and not politics”, then did the color story on the Russian athlete and Georgian (Russian province) athlete that are “friends in spite of the conflict”. Apparently it is okay if NBC infuses politics, just not the olympic athletes.

    The IOC should permanently ban NBC from ever bidding to cover the olympics in the future.

    Just my $.02.



  22. Who needs online coverage when you can fill up your DVR every day with 40 hours of HDTV coverage? That’s more than I can consume.

    I only watch recorded material, so I can skip commercials. Since I watch everything delayed anyway, it really does not bother me that NBC does not show all events live.

    I just have to stay away from the websites to make sure I don’t know the results before I watch.

  23. Proprietary Silverlight. Makes it so I have to run an operating system that THEY want me to run.

    Should I…

    A. Go out and buy Windows for 300 bucks
    B. Not watch the olympics because they can’t seem to provide a standards compliant video stream

    I chose B. Many like me also did.

  24. I have been using the NBC Olympics website. It’s difficult to communicate just how bad and horrible the online site is. It takes hours for videos to show up on the site. Why??? I’m reading about Phelps 8th medal on every other news site and it’s 8 hours later before I can view it at NBC.

    The video player does not work well and often hiccups and forces you to watch a second ad when you dare to click the “enlarge” button if you want to watch the video in a larger window.

    They also offer a customized player for downloading content that is a clusterf*&K of monumental proportions and if i were not a geek would not have been able to get installed. The you download a 2 minute clip of table tennis highlights and they warn you that you can view it for only 2 days! How about longer than 2 days to watch my 2 minute table tennis highlight?

    A complete and utter joke and as usual a missed opportunity to make even more money by fully embracing the 24/7 nature of the web.

  25. Too be perfectly honest, I’ve just been watching things on and it’s been great. Sure, you have to wait 15-30 seconds when you first open the video stream to watch a stupid GE ad, but after that it’s clear coverage with no commercials and no commentary. How can you say that’s a bad thing?

  26. I was pleased to see NBC posted the full 3 hours of the Qualification round of the Trampolining, because I’m a former competitive trampolinist, but there is no commetary although I have provided my own in my head but for people who don’t know the rules of the sport or the tricks will be totally lost .My Father is a professional trampoline coach in Australia and he cant access the NBC streams of course but Ill probably screen grab the video and sent it to him.

    They should provide a service where you can download the video for a fee from anywhere in the world but I suppose that would mess up the IOC’s revenue stream they milk from selling the Broadcast rights to the highest bidder in as many countries as they can .

  27. I know this post was for US viewers, but I thought it would be a good time to chime in to say how well I think the BBC are broadcasting the Olympics here in the UK.

    Plenty of interactive channels to choose from over satellite and cable, and even 3 extra options on Freeview. The live online streaming video is also impressive. The huge traffic they are getting doesn’t seem to be adversely affecting the service either.

    All in all I am impressed so far (and it doesn;t hurt we are doing pretty well in the events as well of course).