Thursday, August 14, 2008

When Live Doesn't Exactly Mean Live

Do you see the word "LIVE" in gold letters in the upper right hand corner of that screen to the right? I did and I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm watching the American 400m free relay as it happens!" Well, as it turns out NBC was lying to me - along with tens of millions of other Americans in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Let's start this story 8 years ago in Sydney, Australia. NBC had paid $3.5 billion dollars to have exclusive broadcast rights for the 2000 - 2008 Olympics and here was their first big chance to cash in on that huge investment. However, due to the fact that the Earth is round, when it was prime-time in Sydney, it was sleepy-time in the US. This forced NBC to show most of the major events on a tape-delay. Now maybe it's just coincidence or maybe the Sydney games were just really boring, but those games turned out have the worst TV ratings in modern history.

Fast forward 8 years and NBC is faced with the same problem. Unwilling to endure poor ratings again, NBC puts enormous pressure on the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing organizers to move some events to the morning in Beijing so they will be live in prime-time for the US. Beijing and the IOC play ball and so you and I get to see some of the big events live.

But that's not exactly the truth. What NBC is really doing in showing those events live in the Eastern and Central time zones and then on tape-delay in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. And what really bothers me is that they still advertise it as live. I can deal with tape-delays. What I can't stomach is the word "LIVE" in golden letters flashing on my screen when I know that the event I'm watching happened 3 hours ago.

I just wish NBC wasn't a liar.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. I turned on the TV at 5:00 here in CA since the coverage began "Live" at 8:00 Eastern.

    What do you know, no Olympics. Then, while checking the news I discover Phelps won a race than according to NBC hadn't happened yet.

    Oh well.

  2. I agree. However, sadly, it seems to me that NBC, as well as other agencies are guilty of dishonesty in more serious ways than this on a fairly regular basis. However, to avoid pulling motes (because I have plenty of beams of my own), many of these are issues of simple logistics. Nonetheless, in this case, I also think it was irresponsible of them.


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