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The Eh Game

NBC skewered for Olympic opening ceremony delay, while Canada gets it right

Don Landry
Eh Game

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Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. (Reuters)

It's happening again.

The gulf between Canadian and American broadcasters, when it comes to the philosophies of broadcasting Olympic events, is in evidence.

Friday's spectacular opening ceremony, carried live in Canada over all the network tentacles of the broadcast consortium, was relegated, in the U.S., to what is still anachronistically called "tape delay" by many.

Because of that, once again, American broadcast decisions surrounding the Olympics look terrible in comparison to those of their neighbours to the north. Seems it's an Olympiad inevitability; Canada gets a gold for on-air decision making, the U.S. fails to make the podium.

Say what you will about Canada's live coverage of the opening ceremony. If you have criticisms about awkward placement of commercials, the odd audio or video drop out or even if you didn't care for Brian Williams' choice to lambaste the IOC during the telecast, at least it was seen as it was happening and not delayed, parsed and re-formed like a processed chicken sandwich patty.

Tape bit the dust in the world of television and radio long ago, but I digress. As did NBC, opting to go with regularly scheduled programming while most of the rest of the world was yucking it up over the antics of Mr. Bean or wondering if Her Majesty would ever be caught cracking even the most subtle of smiles.

There can be little doubt that, in the world as we know it, Americans from New York City to Los Angeles knew all about the secrets so carefully veiled by the opening ceremony committee long before they actually got to see it on their televisions.

The inability of Americans to see the opening ceremony live on TV, or even through NBC's live streaming portal on their website, must have been frustrating for them, indeed.

They let NBC have it, too, using the modern tools of anger so readily available to the masses -- Twitter and Facebook. One check of the stream using #NBCfail and you can witness the chagrin.

Some examples of peeved consumers can be seen, at right.

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The American broadcast credo, historically, has always seemed to be "prime time or no time" when it comes to Olympic telecasts. Opting for what they feel will be bigger audiences and therefore bigger advertising dollars in the traditional riches of the evening viewing hours, that may have once made sense.

Before twitter and texting and digital delivery, when TV was the only game in town, the consumer could have been made to wait for the boob tube presentation.

Those days are far, far behind us. Judging by the figurative pitchforks and torches picked up by the angry citizenry, it's likely time for the likes of NBC to consider pre-empting episodes of "Days Of Our Lives," to provide an as-it-happens presentation.

Good news for American viewers, should they be wired for the modern world - NBC claims it will live stream all the athletic events on its website. Seems the pain of delayed Olympic gratification is reserved just for the opening and closing ceremonies.

As well, U.S. viewers can pick up hundreds of hours of live coverage on the NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, and Bravo. Sounds an awful lot like the variety of carriers Canadians can access.

However, without live television coverage on the main network, the picture seems incomplete to many. Network TV may very well fade into the background as the years go by and the world of the content delivery system evolves. But for now it remains an important outlet for North Americans. It's a notion Canadian broadcasters are grasping. And one that leaves NBC gasping, at least for openers.

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