It’s easy to pile on NBC these days, but last night hockey fans were able to get in on the act. They had enough to complain about already knowing that the USA/Canada game wouldn’t be on the main network, but last night brought another pair of complaints.
After showing a United States victory over Switzerland uninterrupted on USA, fans were hoping the next two games on the schedule got the same treatment. After all, Canada and Russia were both on the docket and are by far the two tournament favorites. With what seems like a dozen networks it should be easy for NBC to get the games on the air by puck drop, right?
Now I should probably be setting churches on fire over this, but for me the solution was easy: turn on CTV. The Canadian Olympic network always values hockey over the other sports, and there was no way they were missing Team Canada’s faceoff. The same goes for Alexander Ovechkin and the Russian SuperShow at midnight. Their viewers wanted to see those games and so they were there live. Easy as that.
For Canada, however, it really is that easy. Hockey is everything in the ratings game, and so the decision is simple. Obviously that’s not necessarily the case in the United States, and so a curling game gets preferred treatment on a network usually resigned to talking about Sarah Palin and Glen Beck’s tears. There is nothing normal about that statement, but then again there is nothing normal about the way NBC is trying to cover the Olympics.
Let’s do this the easy way: tape delayed anything doesn’t work anymore. No one wants to wait to hear news, especially because they don’t have to. The world just doesn’t work that way. I understand what they were able to do in 1980 and when time zones make events happen at five in the morning, but we’re talking about a three hour delay from the east coast. Vancouver was not the setting of Aladdin, it’s 141 miles north of Seattle. People want to know that Lindsey Jacobellis messed up as soon as it happened, not five hours later after they’ve watched the local news.
Trust me, I’ve tried. The “Cone of Silence” was a common occurrence a few years ago, and I could actually manage not knowing the score of a hockey or football game hours after it happened. It was fun to keep that suspense in there, but even in the playoffs it was impossible to manage. Unless you manage to spray your ears shut you’re going to hear a score if you’re out in public.
Now I can’t get through a Wednesday night hockey game without knowing what happened almost immediately. My phone has a scoreboard app and constant Twitter updates. More and more text messages come through talking about what a jerk Drew Stafford is or how old Craig Rivet looks. I know what happened even if I do everything in my power not to know what happened, and I’ve had to accept that and changed my ways.
So NBC can continue to defend the way it’s covering the games, but the network is fighting a losing battle. People are going to get angry with having to wait, angry with searching for games they want to see, and tired of the fluff pieces that litter their prime time broadcast. We are getting used to finding what we want faster and faster, and the network is struggling to understand that and change with us.
I’m sorry, but I feel silly covering my eyes while the local news shows the event winners from earlier in the day. The Olympics aren’t some birthday present my parents are hiding from seven-year-old me; I should be able to see what I’m getting right away. It’s bad enough the events I want to see are buried on networks I haven’t watched in years, the least they could do is start when they say they’re going to start or offer alternatives in the interim.
It’s a problem that’s not going to get fixed for obvious reasons. NBC execs think they are smarter than their viewers and can do whatever they want. That’s probably the case, but only because the smart ones have been watching other channels for years. For all the money they are going to lose on covering the Olympics this year, another network will be more than willing to pick up the rights and find a way to make it work.
And they probably won’t hire that Milbury clown, either.