Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why I Can’t Watch The Olympics

No, it has nothing to do with Darfur, or China’s human rights record, or their treatment of Buddhist monks in TIbet.

I simply can’t stay up that late. And I’m trying, trust me. I fell asleep, remote control in hand, trying to catch Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson Thursday night. Somewhere between the vault and uneven bars I succumbed. I think it was around 11 pm.

It really kind of ticks me off. It’s a freaking school night, for crying out loud! NBC: why did I have to watch an hour of swimming preliminaries? I could care less about preliminaries. Unless you’re an avid follower of the sport, or something really unusual happens, no one cares about preliminaries.

So, prime time is filled with coverage of preliminary heats that no one cares about, while big-viewership events like women’s gymnastics are on at midnight. What idiot at NBC thought that was a good idea?

And yes, apparently all of this is NBC’s fault. In a story about Michael Phelps in today’s New York Times, I learned this:
For the first time, the Olympic finals have been contested between 10 a.m. and noon instead of at night. NBC, which owns the broadcasting rights to the Games in the United States, wanted it that way so that Phelps’s pursuit of Spitz could be shown in prime time.

Oh, wow. So it really is all about American TV viewers? Great. I want to see Phelps win his medals, too. But I’m interested in some other events, as well. And frankly, I’m not so much of an enthusiast that I have to see it live.

I remember the whole broadcast-time thing being an issue when the summer games were held in South Korea and Australia, too. And it seems to me that the traditional way of broadcasting the games just doesn’t work anymore. There needs to be some kind of on-demand thing offered, where folks can subscribe to those events they care about watching. At least tell us what time these events come on so we can set the TiVo, for crying out loud.

NBC is holding on to its Olympics broadcast rights with both hands, but the result is that I’m watching less Olympics coverage than ever before. I really don’t care about volleyball or preliminary heats in swimming and track and field. I’m never told exactly when those events I do want to see will be broadcast. So we end up flipping around the channels, watching other stuff and only by the luck of the draw catching an event of interest. It’s frustrating and at this point I’m ready to give up.

I’ll just read about it in the paper the next day.