Olympic Performances-Great; TV Coverage-Awful

Olympic Performances-Great; TV Coverage-Awful


Leonard Zwelling


I had been debating how to write this blog for almost a week when I read John Anderson’s piece in The Wall Street Journal that said it all.

The performances by the athletes thus far (it’s August 4 as I write) have been spectacular. The United States has done well in gymnastics and track and field and certainly in swimming. The woman’s soccer team will not win gold this time, but Xander Shauffele won the men’s golf and Nelly Korda the women’s golf. As of a few days ago, the American woman were outdoing the men. All of this is good and entertaining—if you didn’t have to battle so hard to see it.

First, there’s the fourteen-hour time difference making it tough to see many events live although the track and field seemed to overcome that so far.  That’s not the real problem. The real problem is that these Olympics are being broadcast on four different cable networks along with NBC’s streaming service Peacock. Let’s say you are like me and have paid just about enough for the various streaming services already and don’t think Peacock is worth it. Then you are stuck with NBC, USA, NBCSN and the Golf Channel which is only showing (surprise) golf.

Were it only true that these cable stations were actually showing the sports. Mainly what they are showing is commercials. It has been more common than not for me to flip among the three channels only to get commercials on all three simultaneously. Games are interrupted for station breaks and so are longer foot, boat or swimming races. Then there’s the interviews before and after which can only be termed inane. I don’t care how an athlete feels after a race. My guess is that he or she feels pretty good if they took gold, less so for silver and even less for bronze. If the athlete got no medals, I suspect he or she is depressed. Why bother with the interviews? Show the winners with the flag running around the track or receiving their medals and move on. Furthermore, why are we hearing from non-sports beat reporters. Is Bob Costas going to interview Trump next?

NBC should be ashamed of itself. The coverage of these games is not what it ought to be. Here’s what I want to see and what I don’t need to see.

I don’t need to see the athletes warm up by running up and down a hall.

I don’t care how they feel. This is about performance.

Simone Biles was very successful telling us all how she felt without saying all that much. She added a lot of class to the proceedings.

The split screen coverage of the families of the competitors was also pretty dumb. What did you expect them to do? Sit on their hands?

The Olympics is a unique venue for the world that comes around every four years—five in this case. The focus ought to be on the field, the pool, the mat and the velodrome, not the green room.  I also don’t want to hear the opinion of television reporters who are talking heads and know next to nothing about the sports they are trying to cover.

NBC has three years to rethink how they will do this in Paris in 2024. That might be time well spent. If they persist in using the commercial TV model, perhaps they can figure out a way to stagger those commercials among the networks so that some of us can actually watch the athletes not the pitchmen. Shame on you NBC your coverage was not worthy of the performances of the men and women who are the real stars here.

2 thoughts on “Olympic Performances-Great; TV Coverage-Awful”

  1. I can’t speak for NBC, but I suspect the reason why they send all three to commercial at the same time is so that you get stuck watching the commercials (and that it’s done intentionally). Remember, NBC has bid a LOT of money to carry the Olympics, and the *only* way they make that money back is by selling advertising during the games and people actually watching those ads. If NBC staggered the commercials, you’d just flip between channels (great for you, bad for their advertisers). Instead, you flip between all three channels, find they’re all in commercial, and probably go back to the channel you were originally watching.

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