I love the Olympics. I’ll watch it all, from swimming and gymnastics to trampoline and synchronized diving (no, seriously, ladies – watch the men’s synchronized diving.)
But like many Americans, especially those of us out here on the West Coast, I’ve been frustrated by my inability to watch the Games when they actually are happening. A major subplot of this year’s Olympics has been NBC’s decision to tape-delay much of the high-profile content for “primetime” – which, for those of us in Seattle, is a good six hours after the event actually occurs. And that whole live-streaming option on NBCOlympics.com? It’s only available if you have a cable subscription, which I don’t, and is notoriously slow and buggy.
Financially, I get it. NBC’s ratings are higher than ever, so it doesn’t make much sense to change their format just because of the #NBCFail revolution on Twitter. For me, the deeper problem is that sports fans no longer watch television that way.
Before the Internet, before social media, you basically had no way of knowing how the events transpired until you plopped down on your couch at 8pm. Not anymore. Now that I can get results in real time, of COURSE I want them. For the last World Cup, I happily woke up at 4am to watch the matches. For NFL playoff games, I don’t flee from the Internet to hide from spoilers. Heck, even for major awards shows like the Academy Awards I don’t have to wait for the West Coast to catch up three hours later.
When I watch television, following social media is an integral part of my viewing process. Seeing how writers, columnists and friends chime in with commentary and snark enriches the media experience. Compare that to the Opening Ceremonies, which I saw go by twice on Twitter before they finally aired on the West Coast. By the time they actually aired on TV here, I had lost interest.
As long as the ratings remain high, there’s no reason to think NBC’s programming will change. They will, however, become increasingly out of touch with the way their audience consumes media.