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Behind the Broadcast: NBC’s tape-delay policy subject of Twitter blasts

Saturday, August 4, 2012
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This has been the most interesting Olympics, Summer or Winter, that I have ever watched. And it has nothing to do with the athletes participating in London.

It has everything to do with social media.

Twitter has been ablaze with people complaining non-stop about NBC Sports saving some of the biggest moments of the Games for prime time, when the results are already known. The complaints started when NBC Sports tape-delayed last Friday’s opening ceremony. The network didn’t even stream it online, but there were other places online to watch it live.

It doesn’t help that London is five hours ahead of the East Coast, six ahead of the Central time zone, seven ahead of the Mountain time zone and eight ahead of the West Coast. So, you can imagine the frustration viewers have.

In this day and age, with so many channels available, the viewers’ reasoning is, why can’t NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC Sports, show the swimming gold-medal races during the day on one of its many other channels, like NBC Sports Network, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC. The #nbcfail has been a trending topic on Twitter.

But here is the funny thing. Despite all of the complaints, NBC Sports is setting viewership records for its prime-time coverage.

Every night since last Friday’s opening ceremony, NBC Sports has been drawing more viewers every night. NBC is averaging 35.1 million viewers, the most of any non-U.S. Summer Olympics since the Montreal Olympics. The 35.1 million is 4.5 million more viewers than Beijing (30.6 million), and 8.1 million more than Athens (27.0 million).

Thursday’s coverage, which feat­ured Gabby Douglas winning the gold medal in the women’s gymnastics all-around and Michael Phelps outdueling Ryan Lochte in the 200-meter IM to earn his record 20th career Olympic medal, drew an average of 36.8 million viewers, the most-watched first Thursday of any non-U.S. Summer Olympics in 36 years (Montreal 1976). It was also the most-watched Thursday telecast on any network since the Friends series finale on May 6, 2004.

This is the first Olympics where social media is playing a role in how viewers perceive NBC’s coverage of the Games. And it hasn’t been a good perception.

Just look at some of the Tweets I read from Sunday night.

u NBC now reporting that the Confederacy has surrendered at Appomattox. Details on tape later tonight.

u Tune in tonight for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Beijing.

u The Tower of London is a must-see attraction, but not at 11:55 p.m. on a Sunday night when there’s actual competition to watch.

u BREAKING: USA wins gold medal in synchronized NBC bashing. Tune in to NBC tomorrow for coverage of the event.

u BREAKING: American col­onists announce independence, King to respond.

I can understand their frus­tration. But NBCUniversal is providing live events not only on its cable channels, but online and on smart phones with NBC Live Extra. There have been some issues with NBC Live Extra with feeds stopping. I have experienced that.

But this generation didn’t grow up in a time when showing events tape-delayed was the only way my generation watched the Olympics. The biggest hockey game ever played, the United States’ victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, was shown on tape. Nobody was complaining back then.

We’re living in a time when

people want instant gratification. We’re quick to criticize if we don’t get our way, or like what we see.

The Twitter nation can’t stand the way NBC is covering the Summer Olympics, and they are hoping they can exact change in the way the network shows the Games. But people are tuning in record numbers, so NBC isn’t failing at all.

OOPS!

NBC did have a major gaffe Monday night.

It was preparing to show Missy Franklin’s gold-medal win in the 100-meter backstroke when it went for a commercial break. And what did viewers see? A promo for the “Today” show and an interview with the gold medal-winning Franklin.

What, no spoiler alert?

NBC issued a statement Wednesday on the matter, apologizing for the error.

“Clearly, that promo should not have aired at that time. We have a process in place, and this will not happen again,” the network said. “We apologize to viewers who were watching and didn’t know the result of the race.”

Catalon on call

If you watched Friday’s incredible Summer Olympics men’s tennis semifinal match between Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro on Bravo, you heard the voice of NBC13’s (WNYT) Andrew Catalon calling the action. As usual, Catalon did a great job.

I exchanged Tweets with Cat­alon shorty after Federer’s 3-6, 7-6 (5), 19-17 victory, and asked him for his thoughts.

“Incredible would be an understatement,” Catalon said of the four-hour, 26-minute match. “I tried to let it breathe and let the sights and sounds tell the story of the match. What a thrill.”

Wolfe gets call

Former Albany Firebirds play-by-play announcer Ari Wolfe will call the action of the Arena Football League’s ArenaBowl XXV in New Orleans Friday on NFL Network, the AFL announced Monday. The game will start at 10:30 p.m.

Wolfe also called the action for the Northeast League’s Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs, as well as men’s basketball for The College of Saint Rose.

He has been calling AFL games on NFL Network this season. Wolfe also serves as a news anchor for NFL Network Now updates.

Wolfe is working on NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage, calling table tennis matches.

Horse racing

MSG Plus and MSG Plus HD is back at Saratoga Race Course today. It will have the Whitney Stakes and Prioress Stakes at 5 p.m.

After that, MSG Plus has same-day taped coverage of the West Virginia Derby at 6 p.m.

NFL preseason

The NFL preseason begins Sunday at 8 p.m. with the Hall of Fame game between the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints. The game will be televised by NFL Network and NFLN HD.

NFLN, along with ESPN, will cover tonight’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at 7.

 
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