NBC’s Olympic coverage proving to be a complete disaster

Must-See TV: The United States upset Canada in a thrilling contest Sunday banished to MSNBC, available in humble low-definition. (Chicago Tribune Photo)

The 2010 Vancouver Games has been filled with the clean, competitive spirit that serves as the cornerstone of the Olympic oath. Sadly, the United States Olympic Committee has teamed up with NBC to severely tarnish the viewing experience of the memory of these games.

The USOC and NBC made a decision months ago to broadcast much the games on a tape-delayed basis across North America, pushing coverage into primetime in an effort to drum up ad revenue. With NBC already poised to lose as much as $130 million dollars in the Vancouver Games, it was about damage control, something the network has become all too familiar with recently.

NBC has presented viewers with an interesting choice: crawl into a spider hole, stay off Twitter, don’t browse the internet, cut off communication with anyone likely to be in touch with the outside world, and wait until primetime then wade through an onslaught of boring, repetitive commercials to see how Bode Miller fares or simply log onto ESPN to check the results of the giant slalom–and discover Miller has been disqualified.

The second choice is clearly the most appealing course of action.

Sunday’s epic tilt between the United States and Canada offered the possibility for live coverage of a marquee event–the U.S. attempting to knock-off Canada at its own game. Perhaps knowing it would be unable to show commercials every five minutes, or maybe assuming nobody in America cares about hockey, the Peacock Network opted to broadcast the game on MSNBC.

What followed was thousands of viewers angrily scouring the listings for the game, then gasping in shock after finding it buried on a channel generally reserved for political pundits and egomaniacal jabber boxes.

One of the greatest upsets in American Olympic history wasn’t even broadcast on network television, even though a network maintained it’s exclusive rights. As far as sports broadcasting debacles go, that’s right up there with CBS airing Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals (Doc vs. Magic) on tape delay or NBC joining forces with Vince McMahon to create the XFL.

NBC has attempted to put a positive spin on the Vancouver Games by putting together a very competent crew for the games. Personalities Matt Lauer, Bob Costas, and Al Michaels have teamed with Scott Hamilton, Dick Button, and Mary Carillo to create fairly informed coverage of the games with some decent human-interest stories in between.

But when the dust settles, it will most likely be too little too late. NBC will unquestionably lose millions of dollars and seems to have inflicted even further damage to its image during the Vancouver Games.

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