Going from the U.S. to Canada, watching the Beijing 2008 Olympics on TV the whole way

When we were in Kansas City last week, the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics started. During our time there, every TV we were around seemed to be tuned into the games. Pretty much everyone was talking about the opening ceremonies, and my family nearly dropped everything to find a TV to watch the amazing show they put on to kick off the games.

Photo by Kris Krug
Photo credit: Kris Krug on Flickr

Quite honestly, I love the Olympics. Winter or summer, I get glued to anything and everything. I think it basically comes down to the competition of the world’s best, and it only happens every four years. I really dig that. Well, maybe not curling just yet (maybe Vancouver 2010 will change that), but the rest of it is pretty cool.

In various hotel rooms and living rooms of my relatives, it was NBC, MSNBC, and USA Network to flip between and feed the need. According to my brother, who is very into digital satellite and HD, he had access to a few more extra channels of continuous Olympics coverage, but that’s extra that you have to pay compared to this standard trio of channels that most cable TV subscribers get.

Being on vacation, I can’t complain about the coverage too much because we were on a trip to see my family and enjoy KCMO. Still, when we could, we caught what we could of the games, whatever events were being shown. Combined with some incredible coverage by our Raincity Studio pals Kris Krug and Robert Scales, renowned new media gurus on the ground in Beijing, we were keeping up just fine and dandy.

Photo by Kris Krug
Photo credit: Kris Krug on Flickr

Come back to Vancouver, and the scope of coverage changes dramatically on TV. Of course, it’s all CBC back in Canada, but the amount of coverage and the way they do it is significantly better. (Hint: get proxy access and watch their streaming coverage)

On the CBC, you do see more events that you probably wouldn’t see on NBC’s coverage, and a lot of that is due to the precedence that comes from showing as much U.S. athletes as possible. If there is a game of beach volleyball between two countries in an elimination round and one of them isn’t the U.S., you’re probably not going to see it unless it’s for a medal. You’ll get highlights, but you probably didn’t get to watch China take out Austria today like we did on CBC. You might get the highlights though.

Do I care about any of those teams? Not really, but it was a good match, regardless of how bad the Austrians played. Oh man, and it was really bad.

One thing we have access to back in Vancouver is a NBC affiliate in Detroit and Seattle, giving us both east and west coast coverage. Basically, all of the “live” coverage that the east coast gets is mostly prerecorded live and run in prime time. That makes sense because NBC wants to maximize their audience (which mostly means maximize profits so they can jack up the prices to advertisers who run their commercials during those events at the most inconvenient time).

On the other hand, CBC seems to be running as much as they can in real time. East coast runs the desk in Beijing until it’s time for the west coast prime time to kick in. They’re subtle about stuff that is tape delayed, but they hardly call it “live”.

Ron McLean has even been up front about some airing of events being tape delayed. I’m fine with that. There are so many events, there is no way that you can show everything all at once. Even at work I’ve turned on Radio-Canada in the background just so I can see the events. I don’t understand a lick of French, but they run a lot through the day to give me my fix, much of it being repeated over and over until Toronto kicks back in with English.

Duane shared this post with me, and I’m glad that I’m not the only one feeling this. To say that Russell Beattie is somewhat upset with NBC’s coverage is slightly understated, and he goes on to point out numerous reasons that makes a lot of sense to me in hindsight, especially in comparison with the coverage I see on CBC now.

The absolute blind rage I’m experiencing trying to view the Olympics is going to give me a fucking embolism. I was already prepared for the worst from NBC, who have fucked up the last 3 Olympic games coverage, but I honestly couldn’t have imagined how evil and extortionary they have become. [russellbeattie]

I’m not going to say that what NBC has done so far with these games is wrong, right, better, or worse, but once you are able to get away from it, you have to wonder about how much better it could be done.

Since everything is shown in the evening prime time, there is no stopping everything in the middle of your work day to watch some amazing, breath stopping event. There is no cohesion with the world in being in that one, true moment of greatness. This does not represent the “one world” notion that the Olympics is meant to be.

We watched Michael Phelps win his 8th gold medal when it happened. It wasn’t shown on the west coast feed on NBC until four hours later. We saw highlights from the end of the womens marathon on CBC just a few hours after it was over, but we were able to watch the end of it “live” nearly five hours later on NBC.

I’m not sure how you change it, but there is something being lost by the way NBC is conducting their control over how the U.S. gets Olympic coverage. I’m not sure that many Americans even know it.

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One Reply to “Going from the U.S. to Canada, watching the Beijing 2008 Olympics on TV the whole way”

  1. I don’t understand why NBC doesn’t do like CBC and broadcast events both live and delayed in prime time, so anyone can watch (or re-watch) things whenever it’s convenient. It’s not like there’s a lot else on in the summer, and live sports is about the only thing TV is still really good for! I’m glad we can get numerous channels of coverage (CBC, Newsworld, U.S. feeds, Radio-Canada, etc.) in Vancouver. And I’m not even a big Summer Olympics fan.

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