The Ghost of Olympics Past

Ok, so yesterday, February 16, I wanted to watch the Olympics because I wanted to see Johnny Weir’s short program. There were technical difficulties at the local NBC affiliate, which, by the time I got to the time it was going to be shown, just added to my anger.

Technical difficulties suck, but they happen. The people at Beartooth NBC got everything back up and running, and I’m sure that having your prime-time broadcast frozen on the face of the Canadian gold-medal hope in Men’s Figure Skating is about as much fun as fisticuffs with a rabid badger.

Beartooth NBC, I’m sorry for seeming to blast my anger at you. You are all awesome. Sorry.

I’m not excusing my actions, because I know full well that if faced with the same situation, I will probably say the same thing. I will be sure to separate the anger at NBC from my frustration with the compounded issue of technical problems at Beartooth.

Aha, now we get to what really sucks about the Olympics.

Let’s go back to Apolo Ohno’s Silver-medal winning race. I found out he’d won the silver just as NBC was showing me the semi-finals where he won his heat. I was confused. I was not happy. I changed the channel and went about my day, tho, because, well, why still watch when I already know the outcome?!?

I didn’t realize that this was NBC being twits until last night, when going to watch Johnny, I was following along on Twitter. I turned on the Olympics only to see stuff that I already knew about because of Twitter. And then my Twitter stream was flooded with the Gays of the East Coast telling me how awesome Johnny’s performance was.

LIVID.

Can you imagine going home on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the game only to find out, from the friends on the East Coast, that it’s over? And the greatest play ever made is all they can tweet about? Spoilers are hard enough with serialized shows, but with sports, they ruin the whole thing.

Spoiled Games

I had no idea that the Olympics were being time-shifted for the time-zones. In my tweeting barrage with Beartooth I found out that yes, it’s time-shifted, so that we can still get nightly national and local news. Which I applaud, as news still needs to be delivered.

I’m still calling bullshit, tho. I know that NBC is perfectly capable of producing three hours that open and end vaguely enough to cover the events evenly and allow for a smaller amount of time-shifting to keep everyone in the loop of what’s happened really recently.

Because NBC has chosen to not do this a whole swath of the US has absolutely no reason to watch the games. Why? Because we already know who won! You’ve spoiled it by not keeping up with technology.

Here’s where it gets unbelievable

  1. Twitter is a fact of life. Let’s be quite clear on that. Ever since events like the Iran election and the Miracle on the Hudson, Twitter has been the biggest, fastest news source for many of us.
  2. NBC has been using Twitter all throughout the Olympics. Don’t believe me? Check out the NBC Olympics Site and you can see every Olympic athlete’s tweets. Notice that they aren’t time-shifted, they are live. I’m currently watching the qualifying races for the 1000M Men’s Speed Skating, and here’s NBC’s own tweet.
  3. NBC's Spoiler Tweet

  4. NBC decided to embrace this brilliant new technology but somehow missed how it would affect their broadcast.

NBC was projecting they were going to lose money on the Olympics, but given that they have destroyed all suspense and any reason to actually watch for millions of Americans, how much worse is it going to be? Don’t be surprised when the ratings absolutely tank in the DMAs that don’t get to see events live. This sucks because the Olympics need the revenue from the ads that run during the programming. NBC needs that revenue as well, and will suffer more immediately for this problem, but the Olympics will suffer because broadcasters will have a harder time justifying the budgets needed to do the Olympics at all.

Embracing new technology is scary, not always smooth, and there can be unintended consequences. And most of that is easily forgiven by the masses, because we get it. Especially if we barely understand the technology ourselves.

However, Twitter has been embraced by the masses. And when your job is based on the timely delivery of information but you don’t see that having tweets about who wins gold ruining your time-delayed broadcast, you’ve got serious issues.

And millions have no reason to watch.

[UPDATE] I’m not the only one who has issues with this. Wil Wheaton seems to have the same thought. You should totally take the poll. I did.

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