Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic TV Musings

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported today that the ratings for NBC's Olympic coverage this time around has been underwhelming.  That mystifies me, as most of the events have been televised live, although women's gymnastics has been shown in tape-delay form (and by the way, for those who don't mind spoilers, Simone Biles won the gold medal in the women's all-around - nice work, Ms. Biles!).  NBC has been able to show a lot live events, especially in prime time, since Rio de Janeiro is only an hour ahead of New York (yes, Rio is two time zones away from New York, but we're on daylight savings time and the Brazilians aren't, as it's winter down there), so there are plenty of opportunities to see the action as it happens.  
Olympics ratings have always been hit or miss for NBC, ever since it began covering the so-called Summer Olympics beginning with Seoul in 1988 (it added the Winter Games starting with Salt Lake City in 2002).  At Seoul, long before it had sister cable channels and Internet streaming, NBC broadcast so many hours of competition that the lackluster ratings made it look like what humorist Paul Slansky called "overkill of the highest order."  Its ratings for Barcelona in 1992 were better, then they went through the roof in Atlanta in 1996 - no surprise, given the fact that those Games were in the United States (the only such occurrence since NBC took over the Summer Games from ABC)  and in the Eastern time zone.  Paradoxically, some of the biggest American names to emerge with smashing victories in Seoul were past their peak when they competed in Atlanta.  Therefore, according to the Nielsen numbers, more Americans saw Jackie Joyner-Kersee, for example, withdraw from the Olympic heptathlon in 1996 than saw her win it in 1988 and 1992.  
That sucks.  
So what's causing the ratings to drop in 2016?  The lack of athlete sob stories?  Not enough travelogue features?  Ryan Lochte's hair?  Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines not knowing when to shut up, as when, during the 800-meter swimming heat earlier today, they were going on and on about Lochte and Michael Phelps while the heat was in progress, even though neither one of them was in it?  Well, of course they weren't - it was a women's heat! 
Please come back to NBC, Hannah Storm.  Your husband needs you to save him from himself.
I don't hold out much hope for the ratings during track and field . . ..        

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