UK Guardian: The Olympics Are Rather Televisual Vomit

It’s rather rare that I agree with the uber-leftist UK Guardian, which is a serious hotbed of Progressivism, particularly in the opinion section and climate cult stuff. In this case, they’re completely correct

NBC paid $7.75bn for its Olympic rights … and we got televisual vomit

If there’s one message the Olympics unfailingly conveys, it’s that elite competition is all about making the right choices. At a certain point every athlete needs to make the decision not to do certain things: the fencer lunging for the head rather than the body, the trampolinist starting their routine on the third jump instead of the fourth, the whitewater slalom all-rounder choosing to focus, early in their career, on the kayak over the canoe.

In 2014 NBC paid $7.75bn for the rights to broadcast the Olympics in the US until 2032. For these Olympics, faced with an inhospitable timezone for US viewers, the host broadcaster has taken the competing athletes’ message of elite discipline in the heat of battle, thrown it out the window, and instead tried to show a bit of everything to every viewer on every available platform all at once. Fitting perhaps for a tournament held in 2021 but still stuck with the previous year’s label, a frazzled atmosphere has suffused American coverage of Tokyo 2020.

From NBC proper to NBCSN, the USA channel, the Olympics channel, and the Golf channel, there has been no shortage of options for Olympics viewing on basic cable. But instead of sticking with single events throughout primetime – introducing them, highlighting the stakes and the protagonists, getting the viewer comfortable with the quirks of competition – NBC has deployed this vast arsenal of broadcast resources to spray America’s households with a kind of inescapable Olympic televisual vomit.

Televisual vomit. Ha!

Viewers have been able to see everything at any given moment (provided you have the Peacock streaming service) while understanding fundamentally nothing about what’s going on. NBC has never met a night of swimming finals that didn’t need to be spliced up with bizarre human interest segments on Caeleb Dressel’s first ride through the Florida wetlands on an airboat, or a routine on the double bars that couldn’t be improved by a quick jump to an ad break and some random highlights of Denmark and Indonesia in the badminton. We all want to know who the athletes are, of course, if only at a superficial level; and since the whole Olympics is so overwhelming, with so much going on at once, some measure of discombobulation from the host broadcaster is always understandable. But when we switch on the Olympics, I think it’s fair to say that most of us want to witness elite athletes perform spectacular feats with their bodies, not hear a series of driving stories about how they handle their daily commute.

I’ve been saying this for decades. It really goes back to when NBC had the Olympics and were doing their “rock and roll highlights” for the 1994 winter games. They spent more and more time on showing highlights, rather than the competitions, along with too much “human interest”. Couple that with so much of the 1994 winter games being pay-per-view, and it got bad. This continued on, and became worse as the years went on. They think people want to know every story of ever athlete. No, we want to watch the competitions, not snippets. We don’t need to hear how the athlete was motivated by someone saying something mean in the 3rd grade. Yes, some stories are great, and they can be told. Quickly. Then show the sports

This happens with other sports, BTW. Broadcasters think people are super interested. Most aren’t. Show us sports.

And US citizens aren’t particularly thrilled with having to pay for the Peacock streaming service when their tax dollars are paying for all the U.S. athletes to compete.

NBC’s programming choices have been consistently bizarre, even more so when you consider that whole chunks of the schedule in Tokyo – for swimming above all, but also in the athletics – were specifically rejigged to cater to the American TV audience, and at several points it’s been unclear to all but the most obsessive Olympics watchers whether what’s on TV at night in the US is live or a replay. On Sunday morning, the women’s triple-jump world record had just been broken, a thrilling men’s high jump had ended in shared gold and the starting gun for the men’s 100m – the biggest race at the Olympics – had just been fired. NBC was showing a replay of the equestrian eventing final. The point, of course, is to funnel viewers to watch the repeat in primetime. Which may have worked at Tokyo 1964 when you could avoid the result for 12 hours. But which viewer with even a passing interest in sport for Tokyo 2020 won’t already have seen the result on the internet or used a VPN to watch it on the BBC or CBC?

That’s where you show the highlights for those who missed it, and show it quickly. NBC thinks people will wait. But, instead, they show other stuff, and bloviate about human interest and COVID (like we have no idea what has been happening since Feb 2019)

Adding to the dissociative nature of proceedings – chaos in the live broadcasts, sleepy times in the studio – Steve Kornacki has been wheeled out to offer a spritz of data-driven rigor. The ostensible purpose of Kornacki in Tokyo has been to stand at “the big board” holding a piece of rolled up paper, circle numbers with his index finger, and deliver lines like “Keep an eye on Erriyon Knighton in the 200 meters” with the gravitas commensurate to the fresh reception of a big batch of 2am mail-in votes from Maricopa county. In practice his real job has been to laugh at jokes about how many pairs of khakis he brought with him to Tokyo, which by my admittedly anecdotal calculation have arrived at the rate of roughly one for every five minutes Kornacki has spent on air – a feat of Olympic endurance in its own right.

We need less in studio and more just showing the sports. I’m not particularly interested in the Summer games, I like the Winter games, but, NBC will do the same thing, and make the same mistakes.

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2 Responses to “UK Guardian: The Olympics Are Rather Televisual Vomit”

  1. Hairy says:

    Television ???? Archaic entertainment

  2. gitarcarver says:

    Television ???? Archaic entertainment

    According to estimates, there are 121 million TV homes in the United States for the 2020-2021 TV season. Whilst the number of TV households continues to grow, pay TV is becoming less popular – the pay TV penetration rate in the U.S. was pegged at 74 percent in 2020, marking a drop of almost ten percent in just five years.

    The trend of consumers (especially younger generations) cutting the cord and instead moving online to streaming services has meant that many pay TV providers have struggled to keep afloat. In spite of this, television statistics show that watching terrestrial TV is still a popular media activity among U.S. consumers.

    Some “archaic.”

    Do you ever get anything right? Are any of your positions based on facts or do you simply hate facts like you hate everything else?

    It is almost Pavlovian with you. Someone writes something that rings your hate filled bell and you feel compelled to salivate and write something that is without merit or truth.

    After all, all the left has is hate.

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