NBC’s Olympic Failure: A Review of NBC’s Bad Olympic Coverage

I love sports. I also love the Olympics. Meaning I really love the Olympics. As you know, I live in Seattle, and Seattle, like the rest of the west coast, is getting screwed by NBC. But, you know, it’s not that bad. I don’t mind watching sporting events that happened live a two hours’ drive from where I live several hours after they occurred, clipped and edited down to an American sizzle of highlight athletes and mind-numbingly pointless stories about “heroes” and polar bears. I don’t mind going on Twitter or Facebook or the Yahoo homepage to inadvertently read about the events and their winners hours before I even have a chance of seeing them on television. I don’t mind that I am unable to watch the events I want to see on NBCOlympics.com, or for that matter CTV.ca, which blocks my IP address from watching videos.

Damn you, NBC. Damn you. How archaic can you be? Usually, when someone or something sucks as much as NBC does – and by that I simply means its consistent fourth place ranking among the networks, – they do something about it. They don’t try to piss off so many people. Since when is not even winning a bronze medal a good thing?

Here are the things I’ve observed so far:

  • The Opening Ceremony
    Of all events to show live, this one should have been the easiest. NBC stated that the opening ceremony would begin at 7:30pm; an hour and a half later, at 9:00pm Pacific, NBC finally started the show. Not only was the ceremony about over at this point (the East Coast having already seen it), it was past midnight by the time the indoor torch was lit; I decided to go to bed before getting to see Gretzky light the outdoor one. To make matters worse, the sound cut out during the broadcast approximately 40 times. It was laughably bad at times. Others in the Seattle area (with Comcast, NBC’s future owner) experienced the same glitches. What a bad start.
  • The Weekend
    The games begin at 9am or 10am every day, so when I turned my television on Saturday morning, I expected that I could watch some Olympics while eating breakfast. After all, the games are happening just a couple hours away – it only makes sense that, at the very least, the daytime coverage would be shown live. But no! Tape delay alert! The Olympics coverage on the West Coast doesn’t start until 1pm in the afternoon, a whopping four hours after the games have already started. On the weekend, Americans are hardwired to watch sports at all points in the day. It’s called football. Why, oh why, does NBC do this to us?
  • Monday Night
    As I write this, it is 10pm on Monday, February 15. The Olympics broadcast didn’t start until 8pm (why not 6pm?), and in that time, they’ve shown almost no sports. Literally, I turned to NBC at about 8:15 and saw three downhill heats, four or five snowboarding races and two pairs figure skating performances. In other words, NBC has shown approximately 15 minutes of sports in the last two hours. They have had lots of commercial breaks, Bob Costas talking, interviews and other filler junk that they claim people like, but no one does.
  • Where Are the Foreign Athletes?
    NBC has always done a poor job of showing athletes from other nations, unless they are the very top ranked in the world (i.e., likely to medal). NBC so far has cut out a lot of the skiers and snowboarders who aren’t “up to par” to make room for their fluff pieces. Without showing other, potentially lesser competitors, it is harder to put the really good ones into perspective; and, at the very least, these Olympic games are supposed to be global: treat them as if they’re global.
  • NBC Devolves Into Fluff
    At the Beijing Olympics, I was pleasantly pleased that NBC offered up lots of sports and a lot less fluff pieces, which depict athletes as “heroes” for their “courageous” stories. The stuff got old years ago, and isn’t what we want to see. But the Vancouver Winter Olympics, so far, have run rampant with stories about athletes with handicapped siblings, adversity and more. Just in the last hour or so they did a piece on polar bears. Polar bears! What. The. F**k. Does. That. Have. To. Do. With. The. Olympics?
  • NBC Fails to Embrace the 21st Century
    We live in a world of Facebook, Twitter, social media, instant news and online video. NBC should embrace these technologies, not try to compete with them. They should be aiming to show the Olympic sports in all mediums at the time they happens.People shouldn’t be hearing the results from their friends before they even have the chance to see the event. NBC should be streaming as much of the events as possible online.
  • They Need to Forget About Primetime and Treat the Olympics Like Any Other Sporting Event
    More than anything else, even if there is a delay of footage, the East Coast and West Coast (and everyone in between) should see the events at the exact same time. A station wouldn’t dare to do this with any other sporting event – why the Olympics? We live in an age of DVRs and other technologies, as mentioned above; tape delays are just inappropriate. Oh, did I mention that Vancouver was in the Pacific time zone? We of all people should get to see the events live!

So far, NBC’s coverage has been terrible. It’s now 10:22, and I’ve only seen one additional skating performance. They’re now doing some story about a Chinese coach. The excuses they come up with (“people only want to watch highlights online”, “three quarters of our audience are on the west coast” and “people want to see back stories on the athletes” have been cited recently) don’t ring true.

How can we convince NBC to improve? Boycotting the Olympics and their sponsors doesn’t seem realistic, but there must be some way to get through to them. I’m open to ideas.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Miscellaneous
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  • Online Degrees

    Nice Post! thanks for the sharing this great post!

  • Love the Olympics

    Your post is spot on!
    Also from the Seattle area and am completely frustrated with the Olympic coverage, especially Bob Costas.

    re: the opening ceremonies – I thought the sound going out was my TV for awhile – their sound issues were ridiculous.

    I want to see many different countries and the diversity of skill levels within the competitions. Showing only the medalists, it’s hard to see how a really good timed finish is fast compared to the other competitors when you only witness the 5 or so fastest runs.

    There are people from all over the globe living in this country – I think their would be a fair amount of support for showing other country’s athletes.

  • Sheesh

    Spot on! Even though I’m in the eastern time zone, I expected to get up Saturday and see the Olympics when i turn on the TV (with the caveat of the PNW being 3 hours behind).

    Every time NBC has covered the Olympics, I can only take so many fluff pieces before shutting them off for the rest of the coverage. This winter has been the quickest for it to occur. The polar bear piece was the last straw for this year. Not only was it biased, it had absolutely nothing to do with the Olympics.

    Add to that inane in-studio commentary on something from the night before, which, if I was interested, I would have watched it and wouldn’t need the useless drivel. And showing only 5 downhillers (I only saw three of them)? Out of a field of how many? Shame on NBC!

    ABC started the fluff piece garbage (“Up close and personal”). NBC has taken it to a whole new, irrelevant level. But at least ABC showed the competitions more inclusively.

    Maybe Comcast can knock some sense into them (but I rather doubt it).

  • That’s terrible. It might be time for Americans to start pirating Canadian satellite service. Here, we’ve got Olympic coverage on CTV, TSN, TSN2, Sportsnet, OLN, V and APTN – all of which overlap to some extent, but you can get live Olympics on at least some of them at any point during the day.

    It’s too bad NBC hasn’t leveraged their sister stations to allow for more Olympic viewing, like CTV has. We also get NBC coverage, but as you’ve pointed out, even the stuff they do cover is poorer than the average coverage of other stations.

    It’s also too bad CTVOlympics.ca uses geoblocking, because their online streaming is usually live, too…

  • Woo

    Right on! Fight the power!

  • Hey everyone, thanks for the comments!

    @Ian – NBC is airing Olympics on multiple channels, but none that even come close to replicating live coverage of the events people want to see.

    And having grown up watching CBUT Olympics, I know what I’m missing. It sucks!

  • gehart

    Has anyone tried to stream any of the events from NBC’s website, if you don’t pay for TV service, you won’t be able to stream any of the events.

    Worst coverage ever.

  • Jerry

    ..How fitting NBC and the olypics are both failures!! This fills me with no-end of joy!! Why did we have this multi billion dollar olypics during a global recession?? MULTI BILLION SO A HANDFULL OF ATHELETES CAN PLAY GAMES.. WTF!!!! I’m moving from BC when I finnish college.. Canadian, especially BC government, are just soo goofy!! They even look and sound goofy??.. ANYWHO! Thanks fer letting me vent!

  • Kitty

    Amen, brother! This looks as if WE wrote it. We’re on the east coast, and have the same complaints. Polar Bears???? Who cares! Also, where are the medal ceremonies? We like to see ALL countries receive their medals.

  • RamblinRosePA

    I think the tv coverage of the olympics is absolutely horrible and nbc should be embarrassed. It’s one think to say the the coverage is absolutely drowned out by too many commercial breaks, but the events are barely covered at all. I came home from work today hoping to see the snowboarding halfpipe I missed today and don’t see it anywhere. Although in just a few minutes they will be airing “Extra” and “Access Hollywood”. Why would they even bid to show the Olympics if they were going to limit coverage to a few hours a day!

  • TJ

    List their advertisers and send them boycott notices. NBC won’t change it or respond to anything unless it costs them money. They can’t believe people will stay up till midnight during the week to watch weak coverage of dead events.

  • Steve

    I like how they have the time to show commercials every 2 minutes, but limit the viewing to just USA runs. Maybe some people want to see all teams covered. NBC blows

  • Stan

    Here in Los Angeles we have the same problem. For entertainment tape delay might be OK but for the true sports fan interested in the event and the result it completely sucks.
    I’m not watching anymore. Maybe ESPN will get the next contract and everyone will see it live. It’s like watching yesterday’s news, just not relevant.

  • Richard

    AGREE – NBC is terrible!!

    it’s the Olympics not the US GAMES. Are there any other atheletes competing?? What’s wrong with you NBC??

    I’ve turned off NBC – No international perspective – it’s not worth the time.

    I miss ABC’s Jim McKay . . . and genuine coverage!!!!

  • Bob

    thankfully i live in Canada where we do have the option of watching the olympic coverage on many different stations.here where i am there’s around 7 or 8 different stations (a couple are in french but even thats ok to watch cause i don’t need to understand what’s being said to know whats happening.
    i try to check out nbc’s coverage but it’s unwatchable,the stuff they show I’ve already seen hours ago on other stations.i agree with you all that nbc seems to think no other counties are competing,the only time you’ll see athletes from other countries is if an American is close with an athlete from another country for a gold medal.
    it’s too bad really because the Olympics is supposed to be about fair play and giving your best effort no matter what the result and NBC forgets that.the won’t even show an American athlete if him/her is not in contention for a medal.
    ie the American girl who won gold in the combined downhill skiing,they were all about Lindsay Vonn and payed no attention to the other girl,Lindsay Vonn feel and didn’t get a medal in that event and even after the other girl won gold during an interveiw with her they rain on her parade buy asking her how she felt about Vonn falling,what a douchey move,just congradulate the girl who won and pay her the respect she deserved.

  • Doug

    Thank you for pointing out NBC’s failing effort at covering the olympics.

  • larry

    Wow spot on!
    Northern california here, thought i would be able to watch all 3 big hockey games today(2/21), but i guess only east coast is allowed that luxury, first game starts 3pm next game is 4pm..wtf!!

  • Nelson JD

    And to add insult in injury, the US-Canada game is NOT in HD!!!!!

    The Today Show Fools are in HD, the daytime Political Morons are in HD, the Late Night Clowns are in HD; NBC just plain SUCKS. I hope they lose millions and that the idiots that perpetrated this nonsense are FIRED.

  • Hey Nelson JD, I’m watching it on MSNBC HD (if you have Comcast, it is 661 I believe).

  • Johnny Taylor

    I am sick of NBC SHIT…..they just left the bobsled and we got to see about 2 min of the hockey game and for the last 20 min i list to BOB COSTAS and a bunch of commentary BULLSHIT……………..

    Fuck NBC!

  • Arden Shell

    I wonder if there is a website that lists all the good NBC is doing? The only comments would be coming from Costas and his couch guests. NBC Nothing But Crap. Hopefully they will end up with a significant loss. I have not felt this angry since 9 11.

  • ishogun

    quite agree, coverage really sucks. I love Olympics, but I am not watching too much now, just do not have patience to sit through all the bull…t. Can’t wait till NBC goes belly up as it should.
    Cannot happen fast enough.

  • Levon Dunn

    So I have sent many letters to the IOC, OBS, NBC. Not one reply. Chris McCloskey (NBC executive defending tape delayed coverage) called his and I quote this “babies” because NBC wont be showing live coverage of the gold medal hockey game (it will be on their website live, but still) this has to be the most insulting thing they have done so far and to make things worse they insult their customers, great customer service huh. NBC is a threat to good TV and sport. So all I have to say is keep sending letters, swamp em and make phone calls. I will be calling the OBS tomorrow.

  • Annie

    Terrible job, NBC has done. NBS failed to show the most exciting part of the olympics by overshadowing with news and other shows. What’s up with not showing the most anticipated hockey game of the year? Also, very poorly announced by the announcers. So, so sad.

  • while trying to catch a repeat of the 1&2nd place womens short ice program, because i heard how good they were, the canadian skater started her program, with the announcers saying that the skater had just lost her mother suddenly and also didnt have a father, than during a fine performance, the camera kept swinging to a man in the audience, that the announcers said was her father, i was trying to find the recaps of the 1 & 2 place winners,later and an announcer said, that no, that man wasnt the skaters father, but they thought he was a relative of some kind., i dont think i will ever see 1st & 2nd placers videos, but what proffesinalism.

  • Jirka

    I live in Bay area and the coverage of the games is absolutely terrible. I come from Europe, moved couple of months ago and couldn’t wait to watch the games. But the quality of NBC is something I haven’t seen before. In Europe the games goes on nation-wide public TV almost 24 hours a day. For almost every sport they have a real sport professionals who help to comment the event, analyze the results, talk about the sport, equipment… Here I just can see an old guy sitting on his couch talking about nothing, showing just Apolo, Bode, Lindey…hundred times a day…
    And what they have done to ice-hockey??!! They are even going not to show USA team live today or at all – just stream on the internet and that only after many many requests… I haven’t seen such a poor job on olympic coverage in my life.

  • you and everyone else is dissapointed jirka, i always loved the winter olympics, and part of that was the news channel promoting what the daily events were, when it would be on, showng other countries players in the events, here in NY, it’s like the olympics dont even exist, no tv promos, the results are at the back of the newspaper, what’s wrong with NBC ? the olympics are right at their back door, not around the world, they are showing the same dim wittedness they did with jay leno & conan obrien, no umph, no importance of the games, nbc is treating this like a “oh by the way” and it had the potential of being what it deserved to be, THE WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES, as a us citizen , i have never seen a united states news channel, ignore, shame, depriortize, belittle, anhedonize what s/b a celebration of what many athletes had worked for, and to see it summed up in a new york news paper “newsday” that the best of the olympics was the “japadog”, a hot dog (umbrella room to give it a ny flair)
    but there was only one booth so hence the 45-90 minute wait.
    but were all in the dark about the olympics, lord just give us 4 more years & NBC you should be ashamed of yourself for recent a–hole errors in el stuipido changes in late nite programming, but please dont ever volunteer for the olympic coverage, because than you are sc__ing the world.

  • Al Daniels

    I strongly agree, NBC monopolizes the coverage for the olympics.Remember last year when youtube or other video sites would offer live coverage of the olympics, NBC quickly turned to their lawyers to turn those site down. What a way to control the people and only allow them to watch the olympics when they feel it is appropriate. And to top that off, I cannot afford cable or internet and the only reception I get is from my antenna that allows me to watch NBC and stay up until midnight with all those repetitive commercials and useless at 1030pm and I have to get up the next day at 4:30am. Complete control over all American viewers simply because NBC can save all their money to buy coverage of the olympics and know in their minds that America is complaining… way to go NBC – GREAT JOB.

  • But NBC is run by such “caring” liberals. How could they do such a thing to us?

  • Margot, Long Island

    I agree with all these comments. I sincerely look forward to the Olympic games, especially the winter games. I count down the days and then look for the schedules of competitions. NBC has done a terrible job of covering these games. I’m so annoyed at the lack of consistency in coverage. As other have pointed out, how come we can only see the top medal runs/races? Why can we not see more competitors? It’s not just about winning, its about the spirit of competition and that includes people who don’t place 1, 2, 3. Why can’t we see more of them? I absolutely cannot stand all the bob costas air time. It should be cut way down so we can see more sports. And agreed, that polar bear thing, really? It’s a terrible disappointment that we wait and are so excited between Olympics and then have to be tortured by the ‘teaser’ coverage and the consistent ‘medal count’ updates. Greedy much?

  • LAM

    I agree with all of the above comments and have stopped watching the NBC coverage of the Olympics. The fluff pieces are just irritating and a waste of time!! I work full time and will not stay up past 11pm to watch the coverage of ice skating finals(which I love) especially when there is no excuse for the late airing. I have decided to boycott NBC for 2 months and also Coke who is one of the prime sponsors.

  • 1bickie

    The Olympics is the ultimate unscripted reality show, but NBC prefers to supply a crappy script. It’s like watching a bad documentary.

  • baysfcadude

    Agree completely. The coverage has been horrible. As a figure skating fan, coverage of the marquee ladies final was the worst I have ever seen. Deplorable. They didn’t start the serious coverage until almost 11pm and only showed the top 6. But earlier in the broadcast, they picked 3 very low ranked skaters (no disrespect to them) to showcase randomly. Lord only knows how they picked them. I won’t even get into the tape delay issue for us west coast people. By the time final group of women started, I was almost half asleep after watching the nordic combined. There was no build-up. They skipped many Olympic caliber performances in the penultimate group which would have built up the excitement. I pray NBC doesn’t get rights for the next winter olympics.

  • soko

    NBC should not get the Olympics again. They did a bad job on almost every level. But the worst was their coverage, or non-coverage, of the figure skating Champions Gala. They showed almost none of the skaters. But they advertised it as if it was the real thing.

    What a horrible job!

  • soko

    NBC should not get the Olympics again. They did a bad job on almost every level. But the worst was their coverage, or non-coverage, of the figure skating Champions Gala. They showed almost none of the skaters. But they advertised it as if it was the real thing.

    What a horrible job!

  • CJ

    Just stick to SPORTS! The constant Republicans did this… and Republicans did that… is bullshit. This is SPORTS, stick to it!
    NBC has gone down the tubes. I want sports, not the bullshit political ads and what that idiot Chris Matthews in his mentally retarded view thinks every commercial break.

  • jhi

    I must say that I was looking forward to the ice skating exhibition gala, always a highlight after a tension-filled competition. But Saturday night’s NBC coverage was severely lacking. We saw a few repeats of American performances from the US Nationals, but there was so much more. Shen and Zhao were never shown, nor Mirai, Mao and other talented skaters. Instead we got the snowboard finals — no Americans and conducted under less-than-ideal viewing conditions given the fog, and repetitious coverage of the Night Train guys. I respect their achievement, but did we need to see Germany and Canada 2? Okay, so you evidently repeated the gala at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. I didn’t get my newspaper until 8:30 a.m. The gala deserves a repeat!

  • livia

    NBC is absolutely horrible in covering the Olympics, both summer game in 2008 and this winter game. Everything’s broken up and 90% of the events were shown live! What the heck is wrong with them insisting on showing the preview of Marriage Ref instead of the remaining of the closing ceremony! Horrible!

    They should not get exclusive coverage for Olympics ever again!

  • Jimbo


  • James Lee

    Who in their right minds delayed Women’s Figure Skating and Men’s Aerial Finals just to watch a *REPLAY* of nordic combined and watching a video about canadian logging?

    They both were live and yet they talk about useless crap that no one would care about in comparison to those two events.

    And then they broadcast only the last 6 figure skaters, and then aerial goes late into the night long after I knew the results.

    Good job NBC. I hope you never get the Olympics ever again.

  • Troy Halliday

    I live 1 hour outside of Vancouver. If I was not living it, I was watching it live on several different stations. The coverage that we were blessed to see was second to none. I believe that every person on the planet should have the privledge if not the right to watch an event that brings the world together, every second of it. My heart goes out to my neighboring Olympic fans south of the border. I hope for everyones sake that this situation gets resolved before 2012, even for those who are not fans of the Olympics, because seeing for the first time someone winning gold might inspire someone to one day be the best in the world.

  • CXfan

    What I hate is that they only talk mostly their American athletes, like what they accomplished over the past few seasons and broadcast how Lindsey Vonn or Apolo Ohno is the best and skipped the rest of the foreign athletes. I had this complain before. They cut and paste to show their athletes and left completely the rest of the athletes to the backstage. Being a short track and team China fan, I hate the coverage of NBC because I want to see the women short track events, yet they broadcast in the late night and leave Apolo Ohno in the primetime, that is really choose and pick what they think has the highest rating

  • Lucky Pierre

    Worst coverage of Olympics ever! Talk, but no show!

  • Chazzy

    Absolutely the worst Olympics coverage ever! Why do the blasted announcers have to talk soooo much during the actual announcements? Shut up Matt and Meredith! We were disappointed and angry. Never again NBC! Good Bye!!

  • Upset

    I don;t think NBC should get the Olympics again either. They have played the most boring sports. All day Saturday, Tennis, Equestrian, water polo, badmitton and trampoline. What a joke . The yonly people who watch these sports ae family members and they are in London. Where was US FieldHockey gam as it was published on MSNBC. I love soccer, but I dont want to watch it 24/7 and watch other countries.
    Where is track and field?? They did a crappy job .I am very disapppointed.