SBD/August 9, 2012/Olympics

Dick Ebersol Defends NBC's Olympic Coverage, Says It Is About Storytelling

Ebersol claims Olympics should not be treated like other sports
While many people "believe that the Olympics should be broadcast the way all other big sporting events are broadcast in the U.S. -- live and unrehearsed," former NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol claims those critics "have it all wrong," according to Joe Posnanski of SPORTS ON EARTH. Ebersol headed NBC's Olympic coverage from '89-'11, and he believes that the games "are not to be treated like other sports." Ebersol, in his only interview during the Games, said, "People talk about how we should treat this like sports. You know, we're getting an 18 rating some nights. Do you know what rating we would get if this was not under the banner of the Olympics? We'd be lucky to get a 1 rating for some of these sports. ... We're in the television business. We're here to make great television." He added "by far the most important part of the Olympics" is storytelling. Ebersol: "It's not enough just to show the Games. We have to give people a reason to care, a reason to be invested." Posnanski noted NBC London Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell has been "taking a lot of criticism for the network's tape delay and editing." But Ebersol believes the coverage "has been nothing less than extraordinary." He said, "I've been watching the BBC, which is one of the most respected entities in the world, right? Well, they will cut away from races to show a British athlete who is finishing fifth. They openly root for their athletes on the air. It's a different approach, but we have never done that." Ebersol added, "There's a great tradition in American television of professionalism in coverage, and I believe we live up to that tradition." As for the tape-delay controversy, Ebersol said, "If someone wants to watch the Olympics live, they can do that online. That's a very small percentage of people. We've done study after study where we ask people when they want to watch the Olympics. They say 'after dinner.' Every study, I've never seen it less than 80 percent, and it's usually a lot higher than that" (SPORTSONEARTHBLOG.com, 8/8).

THE DEBATE RAGES ON: USA Today's Christine Brennan said NBC is "getting great ratings and that’s terrific for them," but it is "embarrassing for the network of David Brinkley and John Chancellor to not be showing these things live." Brennan: "This is not just entertainment. ... This is significant international news, sports news or otherwise, and to be holding it off for eight hours for the West Coast, that’s just an embarrassment for the great news division of NBC.” She added, “There is something bigger here and that’s called your reputation” ("The J.T. the Brick Show," Fox Sports Radio, 8/9). But the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Tim Goodman writes under the header, "Why I'm Not Complaining About NBC's Olympics Coverage." Goodman: "Do I hate the tape delays? Yes. The editing? Yes. The schmaltzy packages? Sure, sometimes. ... Could NBC be doing better? Hell yes. And if ABC did it, the answer would be hell yes again. CBS, too. Fox, as well. ESPN for sure." Goodman writes, "Soon I might start to complain about people complaining about it. It's tiring. And repetitive. And it will not help. The Olympics will never, ever be broadcast in real time unless the United States government foots the bill and tells PBS to turn the cameras on and go home" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/17 issue).

MISSED OPPORTUNITY: The FINANCIAL TIMES' Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson writes under the header "Lessons From Missed Olympic Opportunity." NBC "missed an opportunity to sell season passes to people with no pay-TV contract who would pay to watch on their laptop or iPad." If it "included advertising, this need not cannibalise its core business." This could have been "a chance to get younger customers used to paying for content." NBC will "be able to claim success in the short term, but it is hard to imagine that the next generation has been inspired by its 20th century approach to London 2012" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/9).
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Olympics, NBC

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