Well, back by popular demand, Runblogrun’s Media Critic, James Dunaway is back. Just between you and me, James, is not pleased about the methods and coverage of NBC’s Olympic coverage.
London 2012 Olympics from 4,000 Miles Away, Part I
by James Dunaway
Watching NBC’s London Olympics on television is very different from watching the Trials on TV.
Aside from that, it’s also impossible.
To get the morning sessions on streaming video on your computer, you have to get up anywhere from 2 to 6 a.m., depending on your time zone.
Then you can go to, or go back to, sleep for a few hours. But you have to be sure that you’re not missing something important, and anyway you have to get up again and go back to streaming the evening program while keeping an eye on the three NBC channels, NBC, CNBC and MSNBC (and I think there is another one called NBCSN, which used to be Versus, but I can’t seem to find it).
And you can go to bed at or after midnight, only to start the cycle again in a few hours. At the end of next week, you get your Ph.D. in Zombie.
That’s not just my problem, it’s yours. And it IS impossible. However, ya gotta try.
So, here’s some things I’ve noticed.
The streaming video is the BBC feed, with the world’s best athletics announcer, Peter Matthews, in a secondary role behind BBC veteran Stuart Storey and throws coach John Trower. Storey sometimes mispronounces Slavic names and has a tendency to say things like, “What she’s thinking right now is, ‘I can do better on my next try,'” when of course he has no idea what the athlete in question is saying. And, recapping the final turn of Heat 3 of the women’s 400 semis, he noted, “Look how far back DeeDee Trotter was,” showing his unfamiliarity with DeeDee’s off-the-pace running style. He ought to be familiar with Trotter: as far back as 2004, she finished fifth in the Athens 400.
John Trower, who coached Tessa Sanderson to Olympic gold and Steve Backley to two Olympic silvers and a bronze, alternates between a cloud of clichÃ©s and specialized coach talk such as (actual quote) “She uses the Bixley style of throwing.”
In terms of putting out a telecast that is informative and entertaing, putting Peter Matthews with those two is like mounting a perfect 5-carat diamond between two rhinestones – pretty good rhinestones, but still…
The worst thing about the streaming, though, is the constant streaming of commercials. Mercifully, so far they haven’t interrupted an actual race, jump or throw, but they sure do make for a jerky, stop-and-go format.
I’d much rather pay a reasonable amount for a non-commercial format. Where is the Triplecast when we need it?
Switching from the computer screen to cable, even after two days of run-jump-throw, NBC seems more interested in swimming than in track. Saturday evening, they showed only four of the seven men’s 100 quarter-finals, leaving out the ones won by Asafa Powell and by American Ryan Bailey, whose 9.88 was the fastest time of the day. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision: those 100s had been run 10-12 hours earlier. But cutting out Powell and Bailey gave them another minute or two of Michael Phelps interview and rehash of what we’ve seen a dozen times already.
In their Friday evening show had a brief “package” on the men’s field events, consisting of three shot puts and one long jump. I’m not sure if Dwight even had time to tell viewers Tomasz Majewski was repeating his 2008 gold medal. It was a jumbled mish-mosh, and gave no sense at all of the competition. The field events still get no respect.
I watched the extremely thrilling men’s 10,000 live on both cable and Internet, which allowed me to see the whole race despite the commercials on both. When NBC went to commercial, I went into my home office and watched on the computer, and vice versa. If I’d have known, I’d’ve put them both in the same room.
Speaking of 10,000-meters races. I couldn’t believe my ears Friday when early in the women’s 10, as three Japanese women built up a 15-20 meter lead at the 1,000-meter mark to hear Craig Masback say the rest of the field should be careful not to let them get too far ahead. But I checked with a friend who was watching just as closely and he said, “Yep, that’s what Craig said.”
Question: what was he thinking?