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Joe Lapointe

Joe Lapointe has worked as a sports reporter with the New York Times and a segment producer for "Countdown With Keith Olbermann'' on Current TV

August 15th, 2012 12:16 PM

Olympics: Now you see them, now you don’t

After treating its captive Olympic audience shabbily for more than two weeks, NBC saved its final sucker punch for the last hour Sunday night during its tape-delayed closing ceremonies.
 
Instead of showing the festivities continuously from start to finish, NBC pulled a classic-bait-and switch with its audience – at least on the East Coast -- by inserting a new sit-com called “Animal Practice” that began shortly before 11 p.m.
 
It appeared to be about the whacky, zany adventures of some madcap veterinarians. “We’ll be back in about an hour,” host Bob Costas told the audience.
 
That meant the viewers wishing to see “The Who” and other parts of the grand finale, had to wait until after midnight on a night when most people wanted to get to bed to rest for work on Monday.
 
All ceremonies had taken place hours before, but NBC chose to hold its telecast so the production could be sliced and diced and chopped up with commercials during prime time.  This practice has been getting worse for decades, back to when ABC held the franchise.
 
Remember the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the United States men’s hockey team defeated the Soviet Union late one Friday afternoon in February?  Most of the world got to see that game live but ABC then chose to show it on tape, in prime time, although it was a major news event.
 
ABC’s formula then – and NBC’s formula now – has remained remarkably unchanged for decades despite the development of cable television and live streaming video on the internet.  If you want to see it on your real TV, you simply have to wait until NBC is good and ready to serve up you, the audience, as a product to its advertisers.
 
It’s the old formula that Roone Arledge pioneered at ABC in the early 1960s with “Wide World of Sports.”  Pretend it’s “live” and try to ignore how they are setting you up with a “story line” before showing the taped event.
 
Now that the Games are over, listen for NBC to brag about its “success” because its ratings were high, as if this is the only measure of success and NBC has the right to determine success on its own terms.
 
The audience is hostage to the network and treated like a bunch of suckers.  Where else are you going to see the Games?  They’ve bought exclusive rights.  Enjoy your intrusive sit-com.  And your late local news.  Sit down and shut up.  And stay awake.  Enjoy the Games!

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