Australia's Jessica Fox competes in the women's kayak slalom single on July 30, 2012 at " Lee Valley Water Park" in London during the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO OLIVIER MORINOLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GettyImages
Updated: September 1, 2012 6:10AM
It’s the middle of a Monday, and I’ve got Olympic events coming out of my ears.
Well, not my ears, but the Olympics are bursting from multiple TVs, a desktop, a laptop and an iPad.
On NBC, they’re showing a qualifying heat in women’s whitewater canoeing/kayaking, with the U.S. facing New Zealand.
Wearing protective helmets and navigating a course that looks like a souped-up version of an indoor water park, the kayakers paddle their way through an obstacle course while artificial rapids toss them about.
It’s actually kind of cool to watch, even though I couldn’t tell you the name of a single competitor. Of course, this being the Olympics, within five minutes we’re hearing a backstory. Turns out 18-year-old Jessica “Flying” Fox (“a very talented padder out of Australia”) was just a toddler when her mother, Myriam, competed against Czech great Stapanka Hilgertoba in the 1996 Games in Atlanta, with Hilgertoba winning the gold and Myriam taking the bronze. Now Jessica’s an Olympian, going up against the now 44-year-old Hilgertoba.
Oh! Jessica’s kayak just overturned! That’s a penalty.
Later in the day, NBC will have live coverage of USA vs. Brazil in women’s volleyball, USA vs. Hungary in women’s water polo and USA vs. Poland in men’s beach volleyball. This before their four-hour, prime-time block of packaged programming.
Meanwhile, over on MSNBC, it’s live coverage of Italy vs. Australia in women’s water polo, to be followed by live coverage of women’s basketball and men’s field hockey, and some recorded events as well.
On Bravo, it’s early round tennis action. On the NBC Sports Network, they’ve got equestrian coverage. On OBASK — the Olympics Basketball Channel — they’re gearing up for live coverage of Brazil vs. Russia in women’s basketball. Meanwhile, the OSOCC channel is showing Uruguay/Senegal in qualifying-round soccer action.
You can also watch all 32 sports and all 302 events live from London as long as you have a cable, satellite or telco TV subscription that includes MSNBC and CNBC.
Even if there were six of you and you took the next two weeks off from life, you would not be able to keep up with all the Olympics they’re broadcasting, tape-delaying, live-coverage-ing and streaming our way.
Which of course means the Twitterverse is exploding with criticism of NBC’s Olympics coverage.
Criticism on Twitter? Shocker.
Some Olympics fans (and more than a few media critics) seem to be spending nearly as much time bashing NBC on Twitter as they’re devoting to watching the Games. They’ve set up their own hashtag (#nbcfail), flooding the Twitterverse with complaints about tape-delayed coverage, questionable editing, problems with the live stream and ads interrupting the flow of the action.
Some of the folks I’ve heard from say NBC should show key events live during the day, and then again at night on tape. Others say they don’t have a cable subscription and they don’t want to sign up for one in order to receive the live streaming video. And of course there’s much criticism of various announcers. (Even Hope Solo found the time to complain about Brandi Chastain’s soccer commentary.)
This just in: Nothing’s free. NBC packages the elite sports events into tape-delayed prime-time packages because it translates to ratings gold.
In a brief Twitter exchange with Jim Bell, executive producer of NBC’s Olympics coverage, I asked if he was surprised by the criticism. If “old media” is irrelevant, why are so many “new media” users so upset with NBC?
“Oh indeed,” said Bell. “Some perspective: 171 hours of Olympics on TV in Atlanta in 1996. NBCU is offering over 5,000 hours of Olympic content from London [in] 2012.”
Is some of the criticism warranted? Absolutely. It was a flat-out mistake for NBC to edit out the memorial to terrorism victims from the opening ceremony. Far too many viewers are experiencing buffering problems with the online feed. (In my case, the online feed works well — once I can conquer persistent log-in problems.) And yes, some of the commentary is inane. That’ll happen when you’re delivering 5,000 hours of sports over a two-week period.
But much of the whining on Twitter seems laughably naive. You get the sense some of these people would complain if they had the chance to see the Olympics live and learned they’d actually have to buy a ticket to gain admittance to the stadium.