Olympics top 'Idol,' but tape delays anger viewers
NBC's Olympic broadcast tactics have some scrambling to avoid 'spoilers.'
NBC's prime time Olympic programming handed Fox's "American Idol" its first second-place ratings finish since 2004 on Wednesday night, Nielson reported. But sports fans, not Fox executives, are the ones up in arms.Skip to next paragraph
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NBC’s Olympics broadcast tactics have become a hot topic around the water cooler and with media watchers in recent days. US readers have been writing into news websites with anger, asking them to include "spoiler alert" messages about Olympic events that are over, but have not yet been broadcast by NBC.
Washington Post Managing Editor Liz Spayd told a reader, “We don’t want to be the game spoilers, but when big news happens – an unexpected gold for the U.S., for example, we want it prominently visible at the site.”
The episode and others like it highlight larger issues about changing society values in the Internet age, say several theorists. It speaks to the economic need of NBC to milk its exclusive-rights to coverage to recover its highest monetary return. And it spotlights a growing American penchant to experience sporting events live – defined as “not knowing the outcome” – whenever possible.
“We need to ask the question, ‘what does this say about us as news consumers that we need to experience the thrill and pleasure of sports competition while it’s happening?’” says Peter Lehman, director of the Center for Film, Media, and Popular Culture at Arizona State University. He notes that on the cable channel MSNBC, ostensibly a 24-hour news channel in competition with FOX and CNN, producers have opted to run live Olympics coverage instead of the news that people have come to expect.
“Here is MSNBC, which has been trying to position itself as a serious news channel in relationship to CNN, and they are subordinating that commitment to maximize their return.”
If some complain that NBC’s reasoning is bizarre and selfish for consolidating all the highlight moments into a prime time package to sell more advertising, some theorists say, “hey, it’s working.”
“As old-fashioned as it seems, this is getting them higher numbers,” says Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “It’s interesting to me that in a world that has changed so much with DVRs and the Internet, that an awful lot of people are consuming the Olympics like they did eight years ago.”