How Much Olympics Is Too Much? Ask NBC
I am not a sports buff. Let’s get that out of the way first; I rarely watch sports, and my thrice-weekly trips to the gym are the closest I get to the kind of physical exertion necessary to actually play a sport. And yet, I’ve been sucked in by this year’s Summer Olympics. There’s just one problem: NBC clearly doesn’t want me to check out their coverage of it on television, for some reason.
My problem isn’t the inane commentary or having results spoiled by trailers less than ten minutes before events are actually shown on the network; I’ll leave those for other people (And there certainly are plenty of them, judging by the things I’ve seen on social media up until this point). No, my problem with NBC’s coverage is this: There is far too much of it.
No, wait, even that’s not right. After all, I know that there are literally millions of people who’re tuning into the broadcasts night after night, giving NBC some of its best ratings in years, so it’s clearly just me that’s feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Olympics on the network. But overwhelmed I am, and it’s because NBC expects you to apparently commit your entire evening to catching up with the event. Tonight, for example, the “highlights” show lasts four hours – which is, on the plus side, an hour less than Sunday’s round-up.
Here’s the thing: I want to see some of this stuff, I do. But I don’t want to see four hours of this stuff, and NBC doesn’t really tell you when anything in particular is going to be on; instead, everything is either happening or it’s “coming up,” and the viewer is just expected to stick around and sit through everything up to that point. Now, sometimes that can lead to some unexpectedly enjoyable viewing – I found myself loving the synchronized diving on Sunday night, getting upset at what my wife and I decided was entirely unfair scoring against the American pair and wondering whether the Canadian team had some kind of pheromone power that gave them higher marks than they seemed to deserve – but other times, it means that you’re having to deal with a lot of dull commentary or events that you couldn’t care less about, and all the time, your TiVo is calling to remind you that there are episodes of shows you’d actually want to watch just waiting there, slightly impatiently, for you.
Why, exactly, can’t we have a one hour roundup of all the important stories of the day at the start of each marathon evening session, with each story getting a “We’ll show you more from that event at [Whatever time] tonight,” as a capper? That way, people like me – who are curious, but not overly dedicated, to the Olympics as a whole – can get their fix and know when to tune back in? I understand that the fear on behalf of NBC is likely “But then they’ll not watch the whole thing!” but… Well, if the alternative is “watch the whole four/five hour broadcast” or “not watch anything, but find what I’m looking for on the Internet,” then I hate to break it to them, but I’m going to choose the latter almost every single time. In this day and age, there’s no real reason not to try and cater to the viewer in this kind of situation as much as possible, because, really? If you don’t somebody else will.
And so, because NBC refuses to offer a fast way to get the information I want, I’ll stick with the hilarious Guardian live blog of each day’s events and YouTube for now. I’d prefer to watch it on television, but, not until NBC can come up with a show that asks less of me than a sixth of my day.