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bei-cha-ching 2008
nbc's not getting any of my gold
by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)
8.20.08
television

The Olympics! On NBC!

Amazing how one network is willing to blackmail a nation for nearly three weeks. You want to watch the Summer Games?

Fine, but it'll cost ya.

NBC -- the old fashioned, proud as a peacock, over-the-airwaves variety only offered viewers the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Of the 27 competitive divisions, many of which offered multiple events, NBC gave most of its time over to women's beach volleyball, women's gymnastics, and men's swimming.

Sure, these events are by and large the most popular. Michael Phelps was a shoo-in to break all kinds of records in the pool. Women's gymnastics served up the tense rivalry between Team USA and a Beijing daycare center. And, of course, women's beach volleyball has girls in bikinis slapping each other on the butt every few seconds. That's programming gold.

But what about archery? Badminton? Where were handball, table tennis and the modern pentathlon?

Buried on cable channels that nobody watches. I mean, really -- nobody. But unless you've shelled out for those upper tiers, you're probably screwed.

Want to see any other nation's gymnastics squad? They're buried on Oxygen, along with all the equestrian events. USA Network has table tennis, sandwiched in between reruns of Law & Order, I guess. Other events are squirreled away on MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo.

Huh. I wonder if that guy who screams "Gooooooooooal!" is still at Telemundo.

Like Adam Kraemer, I don't have cable, and don't really miss it, except for the occasional Global Event like this. If I wanted to jump through NBCs hoops, apparently you can watch just about anything online, provided you can use Microsoft's proprietary player; a pop-up window mocked my Mac's obsolescence and then walked away laughing.

So fine, NBC. You're going to withhold the Olympics from me because I'm unwilling to pay for digital cable and an HDTV? Be like that. I'll just find some new events. For example...

Synchronized Swimming
Watching Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain competing against each other is astonishing. They're so alike in their desire to be different from each other; sometimes it's tough to remember who's on what side. McCain might tap a Democrat to be his VP; but wait, Obama might pick a Republican! See them both inflate their tires, commend the other's patriotism, hug in church...all while treading water against the media and public opinion.

Sailing
South Floridian Kevin Kearney exemplifies the Olympic motto of Citius. Altius. Fortius. (Faster. Higher. Stronger.) by attempting to kite surf during Tropical Storm Fay. He probably did kite surf faster and higher than anyone else, and that impact in the parking lot is one of the strongest I've seen. We're checking with Olympic historians to find out if he broke the record for stupidity, too.

Cycling
It's what my air conditioner does every ten minutes or so. Out there it's the Summer Olympics, but in my living room, it's Vancouver 2010.

Shooting
Not since 1980, and its stunning performance against a tenacious but ultimately ill-equipped Afghan team has the Soviet Union showed such overwhelming superiority against its competition. The Georgians never knew what hit them.

Handball
Ernest Borgnine for the gold! (Wonder if he's been watching the beach volleyball...)

So take that, NBC. I can make my own fun, even without the tympani drums and the Rowdy Gaines commentary. And I'll use all the time I'm saving by NOT watching cable for something more satisfying.

Watching my pirated copy of season one of "Heroes."


ABOUT RUSS CARR

If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

more about russ carr

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COMMENTS

reem al-omari
8.20.08 @ 12:08a

We've been lucky, because for some reason with our dish we've been able to get the Chinese olympic channel, as well as the Korean one. The Chinese one is almost always off the air, and the Korean one covers most of the sports you mentioned missing on NBC... the catch? The commentary is in Korean, and Korea is in the spotlight.

Still, I got to watch a Korean woman win the gold for lifting an insane amount of weight without so much as flinching. Sometimes the joy of winning transcends language.

alex b
8.20.08 @ 3:45a

NBC is such a hooker. It's already offering a Michael Phelps: Greatest Olympic Champion DVD for sale on their website. The Games aren't over yet. Talk about not having kicked someone out of bed before making a buck off 'em.

But yeah, I wouldn't have had a clue there was anything past Phelps, gymnastics, and track and field until you mentioned it. Bastards. I would have liked to watch handball.

sandra thompson
8.20.08 @ 8:36a

I could have sworn I watched badminton on MSNBC he other day/night/whatever. I'd never watched badminton before and it was just amazing to me how they volleyed. I remember PLAYING badminton as a child, and it was nothing like that. I'm really glad I didn't go out for the team.

erik myers
8.20.08 @ 9:06a

I hate hate hate the way NBC covers the Olympics.

Would it kill any network to just show a sport? Like.. all the countries... not just the U.S.? Qualifying rounds, etc?

Shouldn't this kind of thing be available on the internet?

adam kraemer
8.20.08 @ 11:23a

Well, while I do agree that NBC should be covering more events itself, even just a "here are the Triathlon highlights," or whatever, it should be pointed out that the other networks are all NBC-owned. It's not like NBC is deliberately seeking out obscure channels to put things on.

I can guarantee you that if ABC had the Games, not only would ESPN be carrying 8 million events, but the Disney Channel would likely be, as well.

Don't blame the network, blame the regulators who allowed a small group of corporations own all of the TV channels.

That said, does men's synchronized diving creep anyone else out, as well? Men in Speedos should never do anything in unison and then immediately run to the shower. Well, not in public, anyway.

[edited]

russ carr
8.20.08 @ 12:19p

Hey, NBC has gone so far as CREATING two new channels just for the Olympics, one for Baseball and the other (IIRC) for Basketball. I'm not sure what kind of subscription entitles you to those channels.

What sort rubs salt in the wound, though: We recently got our federally-subsidized digital decoder box for the top of our woefully archaic big glass tube-style TV set. I'm willing to overlook the fact that the picture goes all pixellated now and then for the recompense of getting FOUR PBS stations, one of which is always showing stuff for kids, and another which is routinely showing cooking shows. For these channels, I pay NOTHING. In addition, the local NBC affiliate has a sidekick channel that's nothing but NBC's national weather feed, occasionally featuring the local affiliate's meteorologists, particularly when there's severe weather. For this channel, I also pay NOTHING.

How much more consumer-friendly could NBC have been by throwing up another free broadcast-digital network during the Olympics? A move like that would have generated seriously good karma for the network and its sponsors. If it's simple enough to do it on pay-digital services (dish or cable) I can't imagine it would have been any more difficult to add a broadcast feed.

Instead, I foresee that if the US returns to the moon in the next 15 years or so, NBC will buy the rights well in advance, and turn it into a PPV event.

jeffrey walker
8.20.08 @ 4:22p

I can't even get NBC to watch the iceberg tip. No cable, and no antenna reception except Fox and some religious channel. If it ain't on fox, I'm effed.

tracey kelley
8.20.08 @ 9:29p

Um, I don't know about ya'll, but what little bit of the Olympics I've watched on NBC, I've seen handball, men's volleyball, men's pommel, men's floor exercises, women's high diving, and fencing.

And by little, I mean "Oh, look, here's a few minutes of the Olympics." click

I really don't follow the hype of the Olympics. I admire the talent of all the athletes, and wanted to see how the little Iowa kids were doing (poor, poor LOLO!), but I'm not like those who watch every frikken minute of it. So I guess I don't care that much about the NBC monop/ilation.

All this being said, RGC's column is extremely clever.

[edited]

lucy lediaev
8.21.08 @ 12:15p

If it ain't on fox, I'm effed.

Condolences!


russ carr
8.21.08 @ 12:57p

I didn't see a minute of any of the contests, but apparently the US women's soccer team has again taken the gold, defeating Brazil 1-0.

No tops were doffed.

adam kraemer
8.22.08 @ 10:55a

I'm damned impressed with both the men's and women's relay teams, let me tell you.



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