Prime Time is The Right Time

by Johnnyrottin

“I want it all,

I want it all,

I want it all,

And I want it now”

 

                        –Queen, “I Want It All”

            Twenty-one years ago Freddie Mercury unwittingly gave the Vancouver Olympics’ television audience its battle cry. We want it all. And we want to see it before someone has a chance to tweet about it.

            The 2010 Winter Olympics features fifteen different types of events (e.g., curling). To judge from the coverage the Games have received on the sports blogs, though, no event is more newsworthy than NBC’s churlish decision to deprive us of seeing any of them live. Deadspin, the Lampwick of sports web sites, felt so self-righteously indignant last week that it printed the email address of NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol (The joke’s on you, Deadspin: Ebersol never checks his email).

            Children, please. Outrage? Outrage at NBC’s Olympics coverage? Look at us. We are a nation that gets collectively pissed off if our SUVs seats aren’t heated, if our cheesy gordita is not crunched to munch. We are Veruca Salt (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7nG3KvZDA). We would do well to take one dose of comedian Louis C.K.’s “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk) rant and down it with a thirsty swig of Grow Up juice.

            Commercial television is not a publicly-owned utility, like electricity or the bathrooms at McDonald’s. It is a business (just ask Conan). By showing the premier events in prime-time, be they live or tape-delay, NBC is simply maximizing revenue.

            Understand: I, too, would have enjoyed seeing the alpine adventures of the Lindseys, Vonn and Jacobellis, live. While I count Franz Klammer’s downhill run in 1976 and the U.S.A.-Russia 1980 hockey game as the two most exciting sporting events I’ve ever seen on television (even though I was watching both on tape-delay), I realize that we no longer live in an era when you can just turn off the radio to occlude your awareness of current events.

            But here is something that only children and Goldman Sachs employees fail to understand: everything comes at a price.

            We may prefer to not know the cold, hard facts about televising the Vancouver Games, but here they are: In 2003 NBC bid $2 billion for the rights to Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London. The Peacock outbid the next closest competitor, Fox, by 50% (Fox bid $1.3 billion).

            NBC’s offer may have been fiscally reckless. “You have to wonder what possessed them to up the ante in 2003,” Rick Gentile, a former executive producer of CBS’ Olympics telecasts, told the Hollywood Reporter last month.

            Perhaps it was irrational exuberance. Reckless optimism. Maybe it was Ebersol’s first- love legacy with the five-ringed spectacle: he got his start in television as an Olympic researcher at ABC at the 1968 Winter Olympics while still an undergrad at Yale (this was back in the days when a network’s under-25 male workforce was not entirely comprised of the progeny of that network’s executives)

            The fallout is that NBC is paying $820 million to televise these sixteen days from British Columbia. That cost comes before you factor in the expenses of flying and lodging (and compensating) hundreds of employees, many of them freelancers, to Vancouver and Whistler. Then add the operating expenses. By my count, for example, it required nine cameras, one of them an overhead crane, just to film the heats of Tuesday’s ski cross event.

            Read that last sentence again. Nine cameras to cover one event. Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy (except the advertisers).

            I know, I know: You don’t care. As one friend in the business told me, “I want immediacy.” Naturally, he tweeted that.

            But in Vancouver, when anyone on hand can text or tweet the results, when any nitwit can twitpic a photo, NBC’s trump card is its exclusivity of footage.

            You may be angry that you didn’t see Lindsey Vonn win gold live. But NBC was willing to wager that you’d still tune in that night to see it. Meanwhile, NBC Universal is airing more than 800 hours of live coverage during the Games, which is more than Salt Lake City and Torino combined.

            Still we moan. I woke up Monday to venomous screeds that NBC had the effrontery to air the USA-Canada hockey game on MSNBC while it aired, as one friend put it, “trick-or-treaters on ice” on the network channel. What, may I ask, is the big deal? It’s 2010: Do you not have MSNBC? Then walk over to your rotary phone and call a cable company.

            Given the choice, I would have shown the hockey game on NBC. But did having it air on MSNBC preclude me from seeing it? Are we really so spoiled that having to not even get up off our asses, having only to push a button or two on the remote, is such an act of sacrifice?

            Here is the reality: If NBC airs a (to use a term they created a decade ago) must-see event live in the afternoon, they lose dollars. Millions of them. Advertiser rates go down if the most anticipated events are not shown in prime time. Even if you work during the day, you can DVR/Tivo that afternoon event and watch it in prime-time. Either way, the prime-time sponsors are deprived of viewers, which means that NBC loses millions. I’m not sure whether your company is in the business of losing money—intentionally, that is—but if it is not, then why should NBC be?

            Ebersol, though, has been in the citius, altius, fortius trade more than most current Olympians have been alive. He understands that what makes the Olympics the greatest spectacle in sport is not whether you saw Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer’s DQ as it happened—I’m willing to wager that you’re not in a speed-skating fantasy league—but rather the gut-wrenching futility of Kramer’s quest. The story itself.

            What’s most amusing? Two years from now, the Olympics will be waged in London. That’s five hours ahead of the East coast. Will NBC strong-arm the IOC into starting all events no later than 5 p.m. local time, as if the entire Olympiad were one grand Wimbledon? Or will NBC hold coverage of evening events until the following day?

            Stay tuned. And keep on bitching, America.

Published in: on February 26, 2010 at 12:32 am  Comments (6)  

Hard To Believe … It’s Been 30 Years

by Woody

I remember it like it was yesterday. February 22, 1980. I was working at Jennings Liquors, doing the 4p to close shift. I was supposed to do the deliveries, but we just told customers no deliveries this night, we told them the truck was down. Why? Because we were able to pick up a Canadian radio station and listen to the USA/USSR hockey game at Lake Placid. You want beer? Not tonight baby, we’re closed.

For those who weren’t around in 1980, or were too young to remember, the cold war was in full swing. We had hostages in Iran, and the morale of the entire country was in the toilet. 2 weeks earlier the US had played the Soviets in New York and got smoked 10-3. We hated the Russians and they hated us. Neither side trusted the other.

TV was not as prevelent as it is today, no internet, no cell phones, not much of anything that we have today. ABC had the Olympics, and although by the time the US/USSR game had come around, everyone was interested, but they still were not going to televise live. The game started at 4p CT. In the store we were able to find a really scratchy, hissing Canadian radio station that was carrying the game. We could barely hear it, but we were glued to it. For the next 2 hours, if any customers came in the store, they would stop and listen as well for a while, then leave. After a few minutes they would come back in because they couldn’t get it in their car.

We were all jumping around the last 10 minutes of the game… it was absolutely crazy. It was also the longest 10 minutes of all time. It seemed to take hours. Timothy O’Toole’s was the bar right next door, and they also had a the game on. Nobody was talking, just drinking and listening. It was so weird. When the game finally ended, and the the unthinkable had happened.. everything just exploded! The bar went crazy unlike anything I had ever seen. My buddy John and I ran outside and took down all the sale stuff on the marque sign and just put up this..

USA 4 USSR 3 Final.

Cars were honking up and down Excelsior Boulevard. It was the bizarre.

As soon as the store closed, we bolted for home to watch the broadcast. Even though we knew the outcome, we still had to watch. This was where I first heard the chant USA, USA, USA…. Today you here it everywhere. But that was the first time. Watching it, I was just as nervous as when we were listening on the radio, like somehow the outcome would change, and we were dreaming.

But as the seconds wound down and Al Michaels is saying “Do You Believe in Miracles..YES!!”.. we realized it was true, and a country rejoiced.

Last night the USA hockey team beat the Canadians 5-3, and I’ve heard media people say its another miracle. No, that wasn’t a miracle. That was a really good USA professional team beating a better Canadian team because we had the better goalie for that game. For me, there were only be one Miracle On Ice.

February 22, 1980.

Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm  Comments (1)  

Toe Pick!

By Katie

Watchin’ the Olympics, pairs skating…the girl on one of the U.S. pairs is apparently living with the man-half of the other U.S. pair. You can’t tell me that doesn’t cause some tension at home.

Two in-love pairs figure skaters lying in bed in the dark after a big meet or whatever skating events are called…they are not, however, paired with each other…

Girl: “G’night, Pookums,”

Boy: “G’night…hey honey, you looked great at the competition today, I’m really glad you and Rodney won a silver medal. You totally deserved it.”

Girl: “Thanks, sweetheart…you and Bitsy were good, too…I mean fifth place is nothing to be ashamed of.”

(pause)

Boy: “I’m not ashamed. Not at all. We skated well.”

Girl: “No, you totally did…I just meant you guys were great and once Bitsy loses that ten pounds, you guys could maybe take fourth next year.”

Boy: “Bitsy doesn’t need to lose ten pounds.”

Girl (snorts): “Uh, nope, and she doesn’t wear too much makeup, either. When you lifted her over your head,  you grunted so loud I thought your intestines were going to come shooting out your ass.”

Boy: “At least I didn’t jam my fist up her hoo-ha. What was Rodney doing, giving you a hysterectomy?”

Girl (indignant):”Rodney is gay, you idiot.”

Boy: “He didn’t look so gay when he had his hands all over your–”

Girl: “Silver medal? All over my silver medal? Rodney is dedicated. Maybe if you skated half as well as you watch TV with your hands down your pants, you and I could be partners, ever think of that?”

Boy: “You know, Bitsy might be fat but she’s not a–”

Girl: “Just shut up and go to sleep.”

aaaaaaaaaaand scene. 

I love doing that…aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhnd sceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeene…

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 3:10 am  Comments (1)  

Whoever You Were, Wherever You Are

by Bill

They say you never forget the moment you were called up to the big leagues–I know I won’t:

Anno Dominio millesimo nongenti septimo sexto et die unodevicesimo mensis Februarius.

I was  11 years old and in 5th grade, my class had just returned from lunch recess. I was without a care in the world. And then the game changed forever.

“In the year of our lord, one thousand, nine hundred seventy six, February 14”

Whoa… how important sounding is that?!?!?!, First in Latin and then in that all-authoritative sounding, Morgan Freeman-should-be-reading script!  (Sorry James Earl Jones, the world has discarded you for a younger, hipper, “elderly, educated, soothing black man’s calming voice of reason and import”)

For those of you who actually know Latin and are shaking your head at my ridiculous attempt– sorry, whatever, you’re 108 anyway, go sit in the corner with James Earl Jones.  (He’s not dead is he? I’d hate for this to come off as crass.)

Anyway, back in class and 20 of us eleven and twelve year-olds are tearing open our batch of cards that we’d just whipped at each other.  Our parents had spent $2.99 at the drugstore the night before and we’d dutifully gone through and signed them with all the emotion of a tax accountant.  Just make sure the big one goes to the teacher and that none of the ones with even the most remote hint of affection go to one of your dudes:

To Matt: “You’re the Tops!” From Bill

To Jackie: “Hoping You Have a Sweet Day! From Bill

To Dave: “Snoopy Thinks You’re Great!” From Bill

To Patty: “Hope This Valentine Brightens Your Day!” From Bill

To Tom: “You’re The Tops!” From Bill

Etc, Etc– you do what’s expected of you and then you eat some candy and cake and drink some juice.  (Unless your 7th grade teacher was a fat, stupid, possessed whore!!!! …..Okay fine, let’s leave that for another day.)

It’s fun, it’s festive, it’s Americana…. my 5th grade teacher was way cool, she’d even brought in a transistor radio and was blaring top 40 music for the occasion. So here I am, tearing through my cards in a hurried fashion,  (the faster I got up front, the bigger piece of cake I could take) I’d just been told I was “the tops” for the 4th time when BOOM! The game changed. I open what’s seemingly another  innocent card– I don’t remember what the card itself said, but I’ll never forget what was written in girlishly-rounded, catholic-ly-neatish penmanship: “I Love You”.

The needle on the record of my 5th grade world scratched hard…. “Holy shit, WHAT?!?!?!? …. You fucking WHAT?!?!?!?… HOLY SHIT!!!”

I don’t know how they did it, but my classmates started moving in slow-motion. I don’t know how she did it, but my teacher’s radio that was playing ABBA’s, “The Winner Takes It All” actually faded out for 10 seconds before fading back in and swelling to 11. I froze in my tracks. I headed for the hills in my mind. I was starving but I couldn’t even imagine wasting time eating. I shrunk to 8 inches tall, but my slow-mo schoolmates turned to look at me like I had grown to 10 feet tall. Our classroom was quickly filling with water, but I was the only one who seemed to notice.  I sprinted out of the room and ran outside to get some fresh air, but when I came to… I hadn’t moved an inch…. how could I, my feet weighed 5o pounds apiece. I was beginning to understand ABBA more than I would ever understand anything again: “The winner takes it all…. the loser takes a fall”….. but I had no clue here: was I the winner or the loser? AAAAAHHHHHH…. wait, wait, wait….just be cool man!

How could three words make my entire world spin out of control so fast?  Dammit, I just wanted some cake and Kool-Aid and now this…. but deep down I knew I was lying to myself, I knew I was excited, I knew my stomach was doing flips of happiness and joy that not even cake and Kool-Aid could match.

But fuck man, seriously.

I finally snapped out of it. What seemed like an eternity of being naked on top of Mount Everest with everyone I’d ever known looking at me, was in reality 90 seconds in a small, 5th grade classroom.  I manned up, got my wits about me and made it to the front of the classroom to get some cake.  I happily exchanged 5th-grade barbs with my buddies, all the while trying to get my heart rate back under a thousand beats a minute.

I walked home from school that day knowing that my time in the sandbox was over. My days of snips and snails and puppy dogs tails were done. I’d been called up to the big-leagues, it was game-on.  It wasn’t until I was half-way home that I realized my desk back at school was still covered with scattered envelopes and valentines.  Not the one that mattered though.  I reached in my pocket for the 20th time in two blocks and slowly pulled it out and stared at the words: “I Love You”.

(You should read the rest in Morgan Freeman’s voice, you know, for gravitas and crap)

It wasn’t signed.  It kind of didn’t have to be signed…. it kind of didn’t matter…. I kind of just knew.

The game certainly changes and all games eventually end– and at the end of the game everyone always says they wish they would have said it more….. so to those of you who don’t “just know”…. I love you too. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Published in: on February 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm  Comments (3)