If you don't want to know what happens, look away now
While out stateside, PHILIP REIDfinds that NBC’s delayed coverage of the Games is of little concern to their viewers
THREE LITTLE words confirmed that it wasn’t an urban myth after all, that NBC – the American broadcasters for the Olympics – were indeed delaying live screening of what they considered to be prime events for prime-time viewing.
“Look away now!” The words uttered by the presenter – ironically enough, live from London – were a fore-warning to viewers that the screen would be filled with results from the gymnastics. There followed silence, so that those who averted their gaze could watch the real thing on delayed transmission later on in ignorant bliss of the actual outcome. For those not inclined to wait, the photos of a beaming Aly Raisman confirmed she had won a gold medal in the women’s floor exercise.
Later on Tuesday night, NBC showed the gymnastics floor exercise programme as if it were live. The commentary was concise and not too incisive, it must be said. “What an Olympics for Aly Raisman.” “One of the hardest working gymnasts out there, for sure.” It’s safe to say the commentators weren’t being paid by the word.
Not long after the gymnastics was shown as “live”, NBC were able to produce a beaming Raisman in studio to be interviewed by Bob Costas, one of the advantages of being able to arrange action and plan interviews when you know the outcome! The delayed transmission of events as if they were live followed a path that wasn’t defined. Gymnastics. Track and field. Beach volleyball. Gymnastics. Weightlifting. Gymnastics. Beach volleyball. Flitting from one to another.
Slickly. Planned. Knowing.
The thing is, it would seem that despite frustration from a section of viewers and harsh judgement from TV critics, the majority of the great American public have bought into or at least accepted the broadcasting giant’s decision to delay transmission – which has included delayed screening Michael Phelps swimming finals and incredibly Usain Bolt’s gold medal-winning performance in the men’s 100 metres – of the “big” events. The station showed showjumping in its live coverage, with deferred coverage later (in prime time) of Bolt’s win.
NBC viewing figures are significantly up on those from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and, on Sunday last, the station’s share dwarfed all other sporting transmissions.
A Gallup poll over the weekend found that most Americans didn’t care whether they knew the results of the Olympic events shown on delayed tape by NBC but only 12 per cent said they approved of the way the station was handling live-event coverage.
NBC has argued the viewing figures back up the decision to delay transmission of the big events until prime-time viewing. The other argument is that tape delay is the best way for the station to recoup much of the $1.1 billion outlay it paid for American TV rights to the Games.
The station has stood by the decision to delay broadcast of such things as the men’s 100m and last week’s swimming, pointing out that subscribers could watch live streaming on its smart phone app.
It did apologise, however, for running a “spoiler” promo last week ahead of showing Missy Franklin’s gold-medal swim in the 100m backstroke. The station apologised to viewers watching who didn’t know the result of the race. Mistake made, it wouldn’t be repeated.
And, with that, back to delayed transmission.
“Look away now!”