Going for the prime-time gold
To borrow from an old commercial: Is it live or is it taped?
The answer is the latter for much of NBC’s coverage of major competitions at the London Olympics. Many viewers are complaining about that “taped-delay” format.
But it’s unrealistic to fault the network for the five-hour difference between London and the U.S. East Coast.
It’s also unrealistic to imagine that NBC would air much of the Olympics’ top audience attractions in any time but prime time — hours after they have occurred.
Refresher time-zone course: When you’re watching the Olympics at 9 p.m. on NBC, it’s already 2 a.m. in London.
Though the taped-delay practice has long been standard procedure for U.S. network telecasts from Olympics with similar time differentials, the rise of the Internet, including social media and other information outlets, has rendered much of NBC’s big-time London presentations anti-climactic.
Yet NBC, which is paying $1.18 billion for TV rights to the Summer Games, is simply going for the gold of maximizing prime-time audience numbers — and advertising rates.
A front-page story in this newspaper earlier this week reported that local interest in the London Games has been strong despite the taped-delay controversy.
And Steve Burke, CEO of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, told a conference call this week that ratings for the London Olympics were 9 percent higher than those for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. Network officials, who had projected a $200 million loss in London, now anticipate roughly breaking even.
So enjoy the rest of the Olympics.
But don’t be too hard on NBC for seeking the best possible return on its massive investment in the London Games.
And don’t bet on competitions that the network is showing at night.