Years ago, Major League Baseball took lots of grief for scheduling All Star and World Series games in the evening. Out came the usual objections – “kids can’t stay up that late” or “baseball belongs in the daytime.” But the simple truth is that then, as now, most people have day jobs. They can actually watch the game if it’s played at night. Higher ratings meant it was the right decision for more fans, period.
So let’s jump ahead to what’s happening now with the London Olympics.
Many people, of course, believe that NBC-TV’s tactic of delaying broadcasts of key events until “prime time” to pump ratings is some sort of subterfuge, turning that five-ring logo into a three-ring circus. But those critics – who probably include you – are simply wrong. (No offense!)
NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus was quoted in Sports Business Daily as saying: “It’s not everyone’s inalienable right to get whatever they want.” This infuriated plenty of people, apparently. Me? I wanted to buy him a beer. It’s not merely that the American TV public is spoiled (though it is). It is simply the fact that millions of complainers are- as my favorite cartoonist used to label some of his panels – “people unclear on the concept.”
NBC is not here, in this case, to bring you the news. If all you want is to know WHAT happened as quickly as possible, you have dozens of cable channels and thousands of web-based media outlets and other news aggregators eager to be the first to tell you.
NBC wants to present the event, in all its beauty, drama, whatever – for you to enjoy. Something, by the way, that more than 40 million people did for the opening ceremonies, and near-record numbers of viewers have continued to do since that debut. Yeah, quite a “#fail.” Sign me up.
Let me say this once: if the ratings are that high, it means by definition that it was a good decision by NBC. The network has made it possible for the greatest number of people to enjoy the event. Period. Offend purists? Sure. Give fodder to fault-finders? Of course – just what they wanted. But NBC is in business to reach as many eyeballs as possible, and it has done exactly that. And pleased the highest number of viewers in the process.
Sure, if they had it to do over again, they might make sure they don’t tease a talk-show appearance by a gold medal winner a few minutes prior to broadcasting that performance on tape. And there is always legitimate room to criticize particular parts of the content, features, broadcasters, etc.
But again, the bottom line is they are doing it quite right. You get to watch free, and NBC is doing what it has to in order to recover the obscene rights fees. The network’s strategy has caused plenty of people to whine, but also allowed far more to watch. NBC will take that result faster than a Usain Bolt 100.
Convince me otherwise if you can. But meanwhile, just watch and enjoy what they show when they show it. Right up through the closing ceremonies on August 12. Oh, no – sorry – didn’t mean to spoil the ending for you.