This is not a column in which I pick on NBC and pile on with everyone else who thinks the network is evil.
Ok, maybe it sorta is.
I just don't get NBC's obsession with showing things it tape delay. They do it with Wimbledon and the French Open and they do it here. They simply don't seem to care if they show things live, but are instead more interested in getting the very best ratings for the windows that have the largest potential viewing audience.
From a business standpoint, their strategy seems to be working OK, as ratings have been very strong, even beating out Fox's American Idol in prime time on Wednesday. But it's never good to have much of the American public hating your guts.
As a fan, it's irksome that no one in the United States was able to legally view either of Lindsey Vonn's first two ski races, because they were no shown live on any NBC network. No one saw Bode Miller's downhill run live. Instead, the races were shown in a tightly edited format in prime time. By then, anyone not living in a cave already knew what happened.
In NBC's defense, it's not easy to show a full ski event live, because there are many skiers who aren't contenders, and it could get kind of boring. But in Miller's case, we missed out on some of the slow-burning tension of watching him race early and wait as each of the top skiers came after him.
NBC's coverage is particularly bothersome to West Coast viewers, who don't even get live broadcasts of things that were shown live in the East.
NBC could show events live as they happen on one of their cable networks or NBCOlympics.com, then show them packaged on tape delay later. This seems like the most obvious solution. But I suppose the network feels it would erode the prime-time viewing audience. (I'm skeptical that it would have much impact.) They'll never know that unless they give it a try, though, right?
What's especially baffling is that the NBCOlympics.com Web site, despite all the hype it gets, shows relatively little live action. I can understand no cannibalizing the prime-time broadcast, but there are many other events that get no coverage on any platform at all. On Thursday, after watching Evan Lysacek win the figure skating gold medal, I noticed that skeleton racers had already begun their first two runs down the track in Whistler. But those runs weren't being shown on NBC until the late-night broadcast (packaged and on tape delay.) And there were no runs shown live on NBCOlympics.com. There is no rationale for this.
NBCOlympics.com could be used to show heats and qualifiers. More curling matches. More hockey games involving more teams. It could be used to show more athletes competing. If NBC wants to cut live to speedskating only around the time Shani Davis is about to skate, that's fine. But why deny viewers the chance to see the earlier skaters on another channel or online?
It will be very interesting to see if NBC retains the rights to broadcast the Olympics beyond 2012. They will be up against ESPN/ABC, whose executives have been on record as saying they believe all events should be shown live if at all possible. It's amazing that NBC doesn't see what it's up against and continues with a coverage format straight from 1992.