Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jurassic Basketball

Today's Olympic basketball game between the USA and China may have been the most-watched sporting event ever. The game was watched live by more than a billion (with a b) people around the globe, everywhere from Beijing to the Bernabeu.

Everywhere, except in the Western half of the United States, where NBC tape delayed the game by three hours. When I got up this morning, I tried to find the game on my local TV, but our NBC affiliate was showing "Meet The Press" instead.  The basketball was scheduled to start at 10am PDT (three hours after it actually started), because  NBC time-shifts their coverage so it starts at the same time in all time zones.

It seems very silly to show 21st century sporting events on tape delay, when everything should be available as it happens.  Since I couldn't find the game (which the US eeked out by thirty points) on television, I headed online to watch the live Eurosport feed.   I was using Chinese technology to defeat an American network's suppression in order to protect their advertising revenue.

A large portion of the coverage in this year's Olympics will be broadcast live on, but they're protecting some of the high-profile sports (like basketball and swimming) by showing them exclusively on television without any live streaming. This is to reach a wider audience and charge more money for advertising.

The problem is that they're still shown live in other parts of the world, so it's pretty easy for Americans to find other avenues to watch the coverage live. It's like a triceratops trying to mark its territory by peeing on a bunch of plants right before a meteor drops to wipe out the dinosaur kingdom.

NBC claims that their surveys show that people want to watch events when it's convenient for them, but if they chose to show Olympic events live, viewers would make adjustments to fit their schedule. If they choose to show them after they happen, viewers will find other avenues (whether legal or not) to watch what they want to watch.

The coverage of this year's Olympics (both broadcast and online) is better than it's ever been, even if most of it is tape delayed on the West Coast. I like the McDonald's commercial with "A Minha Menina" by Os Mutantes, and am even enjoying the national election ads, which we don't get in California, since Obama is up by twenty points here. One of the best things about the Olympics is that there aren't any beer commercials!


2fs said...

The obvious solution is to broadcast the events live (for the enthusiasts who want to see them in real time) and delayed to more convenient hours, for those who are interested but not fanatic. At least that would seem possible given all the hype about the zillions of channels available via the wonders of digital cable...

Joe said...

Ah, memories of the Olympic Triplecast!

As for the game, the Americans played really ugly - lots of hot-dogging and unnecessry dunking. The Chinese played sloppily, but the way Kobe, LeBron, Dwayne, et al played was another "Oh, so that's why they hate us" moment.

Steve said...

I loved the 1992 Triplecast! Midway through the games, NBC was losing so much that they opened it up to all cable systems for free. Unfortunately they're still stuck in the broadcast mentality where airing events live doesn't work.

From what I saw of the USA-China game, the Chinese were trying to play NBA-style basketball without the NBA-level talent to pull it off (besides Yao and the other couple of Chinese players who play in the NBA).