As critics continue to chip away at NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics, I continue to defend the network for the most part. Last Thursday I took a soft stand for NBC but tonight I will put it a little more bluntly: The network doesn’t care about equal airtime for all sports nor whether or not all programming is live. Rather, the network cares about recouping the large amount of money spent on the broadcasting rights with the hopes of perhaps turning a profit.
But even with its main motive of making money, I still don’t think NBC’S presentation of the 2016 Summer Olympics is all that bad. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But I believe it is more than adequate. If you want to watch the entire trampoline competition or if you want to see gymnastics live you can watch it on the NBC Rio app or you can most likely catch it on the large number of NBC sister stations. Keep in mind that the primetime block is when NBC is able to build its return on investment so forgive them if hallmark events are shown on a delay and an archery competition isn’t shown in its entirety.
So while we get annoyed at delayed coverage and a seemingly small selection of sports covered during that 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. time slot, I think we can all concede one thing to NBC:
The on-air talent at the 2016 Summer Olympics is awesome.
Four years ago I wrote about how Bob Costas embodies the spirit of the games. However, tonight I want to give his co-workers credit as well. Don’t get me wrong, Bob is still outstanding. He is as sharp as ever and I live for each night when he opens primetime with his voiceover previewing that evening’s coverage. But I need to congratulate NBC on putting together a team that compliments the excellence that Bob Costas displays each night.
Let’s just start with Bob’s equals. Legends such as Mike Tirico, Al Michaels, and Dan Patrick are anchoring the coverage for NBC during the daytime slots. These sportscasters are at the top of their profession and have brought credibility and familiarity to the screen. It has been nice watching them discuss events that don’t have to do with baseball, basketball, or football.
The sideline reporters at these events are completely top notch as well. Michele Tafoya’s interviews during the swimming events kept me engaged and inspired on a nightly basis. She did her job to perfection and just like the talent I mentioned above, it was nice to see her thriving even if she was out of her element a little. Another sideline reporter who we all know from basketball is Lewis Johnson. However, in Rio he is covering track and field. Once again it is more about his talent rather than his usual sport as he has done a superb job interviewing athletes the second they finish their races, many overflowing with adrenaline and emotion.
But you can still do a good job at the Olympics if you are announcing the sport you are known for. Look at the basketball and golf coverage. It might not be the NBA but Marv Albert, Doug Collins, and Craig Sager are doing a great job calling the men’s basketball tournament. They understand the international game and are very respectable toward it. Watching the men’s golf tournament this weekend was just like watching a PGA event. You had basically the whole NBC golf crew making the trip to cover Rio. Again, they put themselves in the context of the Summer Olympics so even though they called the tourney with the same professionalism they would for a major event in the United States, they made no mistake about the very different circumstances.
However, there is one portion of NBC’s coverage I like the most. This piece centers on the talent we don’t see throughout the year. Rather, it deals with the play-by-play announcers and analysts covering the obscure sports we don’t always experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Saturday morning coverage of events such as water polo, weightlifting, synchronized swimming, fencing, etc. and listening to the broadcast. The men and women covering these events are true professionals and they have called and described the action in a way that enables people like me to actually understand the sport. NBC didn’t just pull people off the street for these roles, they are fresh voices with true talent.
So feel free to go ahead and fault NBC for trying to maximize profit with its primetime production. However, let’s give the network credit for hiring and assigning on-air talent that is able to deliver an Olympic worthy performance in the booth and on the sidelines…no matter if it is live or not. Don’t Blink.