Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wed July 9: NBC's Olympic Plan (FULL BROADCAST SCHDEULE!) and my thoughts on Le Tour so far...

Sorry this post is late, busy day in the life of a blogger...

anyway, today we continue with the countdown to Beijing series with a look at NBC's plan to broadcast the Olympics. But first, the tour de France has been going on for several days now, and since my job is to cover world sports, its only fair to give the world's biggest annual cycling event its share of attention.

Why the Tour just isn't buzzing this year (and why it should)...
Since Lance Armstrong left for retirement, the Tour just isn't the same. Especially for us here in the United States, there hasn't been a "Tiger Woods"-like character for us to turn to Versus every morning and pay attention to the tour. It's hard for us to really invest our time and interest to a number of international cyclists who we've never heard of. Granted there are 22 days of the race for us to get to know these cyclists, but I guess the question should be: why would I want to get to know them in the first place?

I'll answer that question later, meanwhile there are other reasons why the tour isn't receiving much attention. Doping scandals from the past two years have played a huge role. A year after Armstrong retired following the 2005 race, Floyd Landis looked like our next American star in cycling after his come from behind win in 2006. But Landis was found guilty for taking synthetic testosterone and though he plead his innocence, he was stripped of the title. This result had several impacts on the sport. Cycling fans and general sports fans like me came to distrust American cycling and found no reason to view the Tour as a fair event.

This point was further proved in 2007 when the Tour was marked by several doping controversies. Three cyclists and two teams left the race due to various doping scandals, including pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokurov and his Astana team after Vinokurov was found guilty of blood doping. Michael Rasmussen, while still in the yellow jersey after winning Stage 16, was forced to leave the tour after he missed several blood tests and lied about his whereabouts during those scheduled blood tests.

The 2007 tour can be considered one of the lowest points of the history of the race. It led to many withdrawals by primary tour sponsors and certainly must have decreased the number of fans that were loyal to the sport.

But in my eyes, the Tour de France continues to be the one prize that most road cyclists strive for. Not even the World Championships or even the Olympic Games can compare to a Tour de France win. And it's this kind of pressure that may have caused many cyclists to turn to doping. But the international governing body of cycling, UCI, has made it its duty to enforce progress and remove doping from the tainted sport.

The Astana team that was heavily involved in last year's doping scandals have been barred from competing in this year's tour. Last year's green jersey winner, Tom Boonen, has also been barred from this year's race after failing a doping test earlier this year. Clearly there is some progress being made in making this year's tour a clean event. I have yet to hear of any immediate doping scandals concerning this year's Tour.

Which is why it is a good idea to give this year's tour a chance. Though what is normally one of the summer's biggest sporting events will be overshadowed by the upcoming Olympic Games, the Tour de France is the U.S.'s only chance to see the world's top cyclists perform on one of the most challenging stages in sports. And though the United States is not at the top of the cycling world like Lance Armstrong was several years ago, there are still plenty of young cyclists to admire. Several cyclists, including today's winner, Mark Cavendish of Britain, are relishing tour victories. Even the French have had their day in the sun after winning both Stage 3 and the yellow jersey on the same day.

It's something that I appreciate about the Tour, that individual riders can have their shining moments while trying to capture the overall title. The tour always has its share of stories as it rides around through the streets and mountains of France. And given that the Tour has its worst doping scandals behind them, its a sporting event that we need to start trusting again to give us what us sports fans love, great and fair competition.

"WHAT UP?! Media": NBC's Plan For the Olympics
Lot's of people are getting excited for the planned 3600 hours of Olympic coverage on the multiple networks and platforms of NBC Universal. The following article will tell you what all the hype is about:

And all of what NBC said in that article is true and surely a positive for all Olympic fans across the country. But beware, it turns out that NBC's Olympic plan can be too good to be true. This are the flaws that I have heard from other blogs and articles:
  • Sure, will stream 2200 hours of coverage. But none of that live coverage will be of the marquee events like gymnastics and track and field. In an AP Report from last week, the Web will still be taking a backseat to TV.
  • No other website or news organization (or blog including this one) is allowed to post videos of events prior to their broadcast on NBC. Actually, we can't post videos from the games at all.
  • will not stream any events that are scheduled to air on TV. So for us hoping to watch the Men's 100 meter final, we'll have to wait until it airs on NBC 12 hours after the event is completed.
So what's the impact of these restrictions? Viewers and internet users (and bloggers like me) may be flocking to illegal P2P video sharing sites to see other broadcasters feeds. (I won't mention where, you'll have to find it yourself). NBC needs to understand that the Web should be working with TV, not behind TV especially concerning top notch events. But consider the progress they've made from Sydney 2000 when they just had a couple of articles and pictures on the NBCOlympics website. I think this year's coverage of the Olympics is a big step up from then and certainly expected.

Many of the world's broadcasters are streaming big events on websites (look at BBC Sport). NBC looked like it was headed in this direction after it streamed the Men's Ice Hockey game live from the Torino Winter Olympics in 2006. I think we'll take what NBC is giving us now rather than taking less from them. Also, consider this: American broadcasters never pay attention to the marquee sports of the Olympics during non-Olympic years, so we can't expect them to broadcast it live (though they should). But they won't, because NBC paid wayyy tooo much money for these Olympics and they aren't going to gamble with advertisers by broadcasting marquee sports live in the morning (but they should, especially because the Today Show is doing so well in the ratings).

Overall, I'm happy with the coverage NBC is offering. I'm a crazy sports fan so if there's Olympic coverage every hour of the day, I'm down for it. And look at it this way, if you're a big Olympics freak like me, they'll be something on TV about the Olympics 24 hours a day that you'll forget to check who won that Men's 100 meter race by the time it airs on NBC.

As a special bonus to the readers, HERE IS THE ENTIRE NBC UNIVERSAL OLYMPIC SCHEDULE embedded below:

NBC Olympics broadcast schedule - Free Legal Forms

Thanks so much for reading! I hope I have informed and enlightened you with the opinion and information that I have given you. Come back tomorrow and we'll discuss some baseball and maybe even cricket (maybe...)


Rob said...

Thanks for the great info on the Olympics. I hope we can see as many events as possible on TV. With all the Internet streaming stuff out there, there should be no reason why we can't see stuff on demand as well as live.

Zak Shtulberg said...

I'd rather watch The Office.
The Olympics need more ice hockey.

BEIJING 2008 Tentative NBC Schedule (BLOG POSTS BELOW...)