Don’t Let NBC Stop You From Watching the Olympics (and Why the Olympics Are Good for NBC)

It has been five amazing days of the Olympic Games so far. While NBC is still in the process of rebuilding its image, don’t let their programming blunders, 3-hour delayed coverage (west coast, though how about Alaska and Hawaii!!), and the fear of fluff pieces scare you away from watching the Games.

It has been some great television so far these last few days. Despite the delay for us western US folk, the gold medal moments have been just as thrilling and exciting to watch. Sometimes at the Olympics, the story can be just as important as the sport itself, often adding a lot of perspective to these athletes we’ve either never heard of or see only every four years.

The fluff pieces and pro-American segments have long been the subject of criticism. Not surprisingly, NBC has cut back on those pieces in these first few nights, but probably would’ve been welcome to have in some cases. The story of Chinese pair Shen/Zhao going into Sunday and Monday’s Pairs Figure Skating event made their gold medal win that much more satisfying. Emotionally manipulative? Sure, but it worked. With more than 2,500 athletes in these games, there’s bound to be hundreds of stories worth telling but little time to do so.

The Olympics have been seen as representative of many things, good and bad. But fundamentally, the Olympics is one of the few events that literally brings the world together in the spirit of competition and good will. Put aside the politics and the commercialism and think about these 2,500+ people who have worked for years to get here. Those men and women, some still teenagers and others wanting to cap stellar careers, who, by just being in Vancouver and walking into the Olympic stadium, have fulfilled a lifelong dream.

Some people “don’t get it,” what is the big deal? Whether it is the Games or the sports themselves. Few television broadcasts can give you the wide array of feelings like the Olympics can; pride, excitement, inspiring, heartwarming. It is the physical and athletics as much as it is the emotion.

As for what good losing money is for NBC (NBC Universal will actually lose money on the Games because the ad revenue can’t make up the money NBCU paid for the broadcast rights), the Olympics actually gives the network and the company some much needed happiness. After a hellish last couple of months, and the continuing downward trend of NBC’s image, the Olympics allows NBCU to actually be happy about something for two weeks.

This will be a boost for NBC’s spirits (which unfortunately includes Zucker and Co.), which they definitely need.

The Olympics helps NBC save some face, gives them time to build some morale and get ready for what they hope is a new beginning after the Olympics, starting with the launch of highly anticipated shows like Parenthood and the relaunch of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The Olympics, like any huge television event, is a good platform for the network to promote. Success is relative, but for NBC, they need to take what they can get.

So, the Olympic Games… basically good for everyone. (Well, except for other networks.)

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