Every two to four years we have the same conversations around the water cooler or social media about the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) deplorable decisions and the horrific NBC coverage of the Olympics. Despite hoping for better viewership this year compared to four years ago, NBC saw a 35 percent drop in viewership of the opening ceremony and a 20 percent drop in overall viewership after that. The online streaming number are not making up for that, either:
NBC's Rio streaming #'s sound impressive, but the big surprise is how small they are vs. TV https://t.co/hYGboboYgg pic.twitter.com/0wJaDR93tR
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 12, 2016
We can solve the core reoccurring problems with the Olympics in just a few easy steps. Sure, it would be different. But it would also be much better.
1. Location, Location, Location
One of the most annoying things about the otherwise joyful Olympics is the deplorable conditions in host countries and the temporary Olympic villages set up only to be abandoned. This fatal flaw was highlighted this year in the corruption and poverty in Brazil.
My solution is simple and efficient: Move the summer Olympics to Greece, permanently. It would cut corruption and create a safer environment for our athletes. We can design a permanent Olympic village with state-of-the-art updates as needed to the venues and housing. Two birds, one stone. Also: who doesn’t want to visit to Greece?
2. Timing Is Everything
The typical Olympic viewers are families with children. Schedule the events accordingly. Grown-ups have to get up for work in the morning, and America hasn’t gotten this little sleep since the NBA finals. Little future Olympians are fast asleep before many of the pre-recorded gymnastics finals even air. Some of the games are never even mentioned on NBC proper outside of possibly the opening ceremonies.
If NBC and the IOC refuse to schedule live events in the evening, at least begin programming at 7 p.m. EST. Not all games deserve a prime-time audience, yet we could see more than two sports a night. Why aren’t the popular games scheduled at the same time so the coverage can be back and forth or live at times?
3. Production With a Purpose
Since NBC has openly live-streamed events during the day in real-time, spoilers are on the Internet long before the recorded events air on TV screens. Since we know NBC is editing events for TV, we also know they could cut out all the pre-game build-up. I get that it’s part of their storyline, but we don’t tune in for their storylines. If you’re going to edit the program anyway, don’t act like NBC can’t produce a show that is not only watchable, but jam-packed with different games.
We want to watch the games. Knowing that much of the prime-time line-up is produced also begs the question: why can we only see one gymnastics routine between commercial breaks? This year the segments seem to have less and less content, yet commercial breaks have remained the same.
4. Less Talk, More Action
This could easily be titled the “shut up and show us the sports” section. While we all enjoy a little human interest story here and there, specifically about American athletes, NBC has taken it upon themselves year after year to “explain” to Americans what is most wonderful about said host country. Bob Costas is infamous for this behavior yet it continues, year after year.
We should demand a strict ratio of no more than two minutes of talking without showing actual footage of the games. Tell anchors to keep the monologues and lectures to a minimum, as no one is tuning in to hear their thoughts. Cutting the chatter alone would allow for significantly more time to show actual Olympic sports, like badminton or something.
In this same vein, perhaps a montage of those who win the gold medals each day on the podium at the end of the shows? We want to see it, but it could be much more effectively and creatively produced, both for time and emotional draw. It’s not like they don’t show the clips on a loop during the morning shows the next day.
5. Get with the Technology
The increased use in streaming has obviously affected the games this year, even more than in 2012. Time stops for no man, so NBC should be putting together a platform now to accommodate the newest ways for people to watch the Olympics (e.g., consume their product). People are still primarily watching on the broadcast network and, while that will continue to shift, NBC and the IOC need to serve us much better. Internet spoilers don’t ruin the games, but they do take away some of the excitement. Content is king, and NBC is going to have to make some tough choices before 2020.
6. Focus On the Finals
This seems like a really simple idea, yet NBC refuses to get it. Watching a final for ping pong is more exciting than watching a preliminary round of basketball. As mentioned earlier, the audience knows the shows are a mix of recorded and live, so why not use that to your advantage to squeeze in coverage of the many medals athletes are winning? Watching someone win a gold medal is what makes the Olympics so special. On national television you can watch someone’s dreams come true. Athletes have trained for years in sports I’ve never heard of, and if they are wearing the American flag we should at least watch their winning moment.
7. USA! USA! USA!
The last fix is an easy one, yet it seems to slip past NBC every Olympics. While some Americans may tune in to watch other countries’ athletes, that’s probably pretty rare. We want to see American athletes. Since our time is limited, we want to see Americans competing, not an entire heat of other countries’ athletes in prime time. If that sounds harsh, take it up with NBC.
The Olympics are a rare time when Americans come together to cheer on the home team. It’s a bonding experience for the entire country, even those who don’t even watch the games. We are blessed to live in the United States, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating our athletes.