Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sure Thing Prediction: NBC Guts Sochi Opening Ceremony

Before posting another update about the Olympic city experience, a word about NBC and a prediction for their Sochi coverage.

For the record, there are many aspects of NBC's Olympic coverage that I find O.K. Some of their feature reports and five-ringed vignettes are fun, and it is enjoyable to return from the Games experience to view their take on the action in an edited format. When there's time, it is fun to view select content at NBCOlympics.com.

With that said, I still cannot stomach archived John Tesh commentary from the times when they permitted him to dramatize figure skating or gymnastics. And there are other Olympic broadcasting ideas about which a strong opinion remains.

The part I definitely don't like, don't understand and will not likely ever concur with is the NBC Olympic producers' decision to alter the Olympic Opening Ceremony for U.S. broadcast, a terrible decision.

Here's NBC's recipe for "Olympic Opening Ceremony American Style" (their Salt Lake 2002 coverage is the only exception to this format) ...

1. Tape the full Olympic Opening Ceremony to "look live" with anchors/commentary
2. Lock producers/editors into editing bays at the NBC quadrant of the International Broadcast Center
3. Slice, dice, carve, mangle and blend on "grind" mode until just before 8 p.m. ET stateside air time
4. Serve up dramatically altered "American ready" version for the masses.

Readers of this blog may recall the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and revelations that entire segments of the event did not air in the USA. Boo! Hiss!

Why can't NBC quote from the Sochi organizing committee Opening Ceremony press kits (a minute-by-minute explanation of every scene in the ceremony meticulously prepared for broadcast reports to reference during the live event)? Why not put this factual document in the hands of Bob Costas and other hosts (Meredith Viera in London)? Would this help, perhaps, for stupid Americans to "get it" when something about the host nation is unveiled?

After catching up on just two days worth of TODAY Show segments from Sochi, with gleeful hosts poking fun at every opportunity and yuk-ing it up with xenophobic remarks about the host nation, I shutter to think how the executive producers already have their cut and gut sites set on Sochi's Opening Ceremony.

Will NBC cut to taped segments about record-setting security costs while American viewers miss out on a Russian history lesson presented on the field of play deemed "too Russian for USA viewers" [to understand]? Da!

Will NBC Olympic producers let the anchors bite their tongues during President Putin's appearance to officially open the Games? Nyet!

Will NBC harp on Torch Relay snafus in lieu of successes of one of the biggest flame caravans in Olympic history? Da!

Will the NBC Olympic broadcast cut to commercial with precision as the last few torchbearers are revealed and immediately after the cauldron ignites? Bероятно (probably).

The only thing that chaps my hide more than the editing is that the powers that be at NBC don't care that many people just want to see the real Opening Ceremony. At the IOC Conference on Women and Sport in February 2012, I posed questions about this topic to the media panel including one of NBC's top producers (the woman who later oversaw the London 2012 broadcast among the most, if not the most, senior producers for NBC Olympics). She sort of shrugged off my questions as if to say, "Meh! Will just do it our way" for ratings, for fun, or just because they can. "These are timing decisions," she said. How about these are business decisions?

What is your opinion on the NBC Olympic broadcast of the Opening Ceremony? Should they just air it intact, heavily edited or somewhere in the middle? Please look to the right column of this blog and cast your vote in the brief poll.

And enjoy watching the Olympics on NBC.

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