As we’re in the home stretch of the Olympics, I’ll provide some thoughts on some of the coverage through the first 10 days of the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad.
They’ll be in bullet form, of course.
- Monday’s women’s soccer quarterfinal game between the USA and Canada was an instant classic. Alex Morgan’s goal in the 123rd minute in extra time gave the United States a dramatic victory and entrance into the final against Japan, the same team that beat them on penalty kicks in the Women’s World Cup last year. It was certainly reminiscent of Abby Wambach’s goal in the quarterfinals of the World Cup against Brazil.
There are a couple of similarities in both games. First, spectacular play-by-play by Ian Darke for ESPN last year and Arlo White on NBC Sports Network this year. White has really established himself as one of the up and coming soccer voices. He’s really impressed me in calling both men’s and women’s games in the Olympics. It’s not easy keeping players and numbers straight calling games every day, but White has been doing a bang-up job.
Another similarity was the screaming by analysts Julie Foudy of ESPN last year and Brandi Chastain for NBC Sports Network this year. However, Foudy’s screaming was contained to Wambach’s goal. For Chastain, she screamed for 99% of the two extra periods. I found it extremely distracting to concentrate on the game as Chastain continued to yell while Arlo White remained calm. Getting excited during the game is fine and Gus Johnson manages to do it right when it’s warranted. However, screaming throughout is not conducive and Chastain would not let off the gas pedal at least for the portion that I watched.
Could she not hear herself? Were her headphones not working and thus, she felt she needed to scream? Or was she not realizing that she was screaming? In my post on the next generation of Olympic announcers, I had written that Chastain had been doing a decent job in the booth. But I take that back after her horrid performance on Monday.
- Up until today, I had not weighed in on NBC’s tape delay policy and holding certain events for primetime viewing. I was originally of the opinion that I was happy that all events (except for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies) are online and can be found either on the NBCOlympics.com website or on the NBC Olympics Live Extra mobile/tablet app. But after NBC’s treatment of the American people this weekend for Usain Bolt’s race, I can no longer keep silent.
Yes, NBC feels it has to maximize its audience by holding and packaging events for primetime. I get that, but I still don’t like it. When the men’s 100 meter race featuring Usain Bolt was about to get underway, NBC chose to keep the the event online rather than air it live late Sunday afternoon on the East Coast. While I do give NBC kudos for airing its daytime coverage live in all time zones on Saturday and Sunday, it still pulled its shenanigans by delaying Michael Phelps’ last race on Saturday and the Bolt gold medal run on Sunday.
And while many chose to find the race online, some complained by the video on the Live Extra app went out just before the race was about to run. While others had problems finding a computer, smart phone or tablet. In addition, when the video fired properly, some got a picture quality similar to this:
Ed Sherman of the Sherman Report scolded NBC for running equestrian events while Bolt was about to successfully defend his 2008 gold medal in London. I agree with Ed that on the weekends, it would behoove NBC to air glamor events live on the weekend no matter when it is. And it can run it in primetime with the packaging and whatever emotion the network wants to provide.
While it’s one thing to hold events to get a bigger audience and to prevent non-rightsholders from showing highlights, you’re also mistreating your audience that wants to watch it on television. Yes, it’s great to have everything online and to see it as it happens, but there are a great many people who would rather watch it on television. I’m wondering if NBC somehow can’t provide a happy medium here.
- And speaking about the online experience, I give NBC a B minus for the performance of the apps and the website. NBC has been successful in getting people to authenticate their participating cable or satellite providers to gain access to live video. But there are a few things the network can do to make it even better.
- First, it has to improve the video quality and the bandwidth. For events that have had high traffic including gymnastics and track & field viewers complained that video either froze or buffered just as they were getting interesting.
Second, commercials fired every two minutes in the case of gymnastics and would sometimes cut off astute analysis from the World Feed or even action that was underway. That is inexcusable to allow the spots to fire automatically, not to check each feed and providing a clean experience.
And third, while I give props for streaming Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC and NBC Sports Network’s coverage, I wish all of NBC’s coverage was available online as well. This was done on Saturday and Sunday when NBC’s Gold Zone, an online channel that took viewers to medal-potential moments, streamed the network’s daytime coverage. I think it was a great move and should be done in 2014 in Sochi.
NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a conference call last week that NBC wants to improve its presentation and is considering every possible avenue to provide viewers with the best method to watch the Games. Here’s hoping that the streaming and bandwidth will improve in Sochi in 2014.
That’s going to do it for the thoughts.