Olympics, No Spoiler

Well, if you’re more than a day behind, this actually does have a spoiler, but the first “big” news for the US Olympics team was the result of the 400 IM Finals, featuring Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. So, if you hadn’t heard, Lochte won and Phelps was out of the medals. I hadn’t, until about 4 hours before it was shown on NBC primetime.

I hear there’s a lot of controversy about this online right now, but I’m afraid to read it in fear of reading another spoiler. Fortunately, my reddit account shouldn’t have any results appear on my front page, but I need to stop instinctively checking sports news on ESPN.com when I’m bored. In case you’re not also affected by this first-world problem of mine, NBC tape delays important events (particularly involving Americans) until primetime coverage at 8PM in the evening. Since the west coast is 8 hours behind London, this means that results are coming out significantly before primetime, and unlike with movies, spoilers aren’t a faux pas in sports.

It gets worse, though, as NBC hasn’t even managed to coordinate their own coverage. The nightly news from 6 to 7 on NBC Bay Area does their job in covering the latest news, including the results that will be shown on their channel immediately after the news finishes. On one occasion, they were polite enough to warn of the spoilers ahead, but even the teaser of the stories have a way of revealing results (“In just a few moments, we’ll discuss the shocking result of [EVENT] with Bay Area local athletes”). It kind of kills the excitement, as you might imagine.

Maybe this has been a problem for years now, and I have only just reached maturity to care about it now. But let’s pretend that’s not the case. Why is this any worse than Beijing 4 years ago or Turin 6 years ago? Maybe it’s Web 2.0. These days, we get news instantly. Many people still get their news from the mainstream media, but for many of my peers, reddit, twitter, and facebook are the first sources checked for news. And since they’re so tightly integrated with our social lives, the news is unavoidable as we go about our normal lives. As I noted above, I have needed to go on a bit of a social diet to avoid the spoilers.

This probably isn’t the worst thing, though that’s the part of me that greatly desires for a sense of superiority in being a luddite. In any case, it’s just another sign, I think, of how the internet has continue to hurt TV. The most obvious effect is that we’re viewing more media on the internet, but the timing of them are causing perhaps irreconcilable problems. TV, except in truly exceptional breaking news, is on a pre-determined schedule meant to feature content at certain times. The internet is a constant flow of content pushed to us when we want it. Live sporting events and news are a good example. Another is prime-time TV: TV networks feature their popular shows in the evenings, and they’ve been losing a lot of ground to hulu and netflix, which allow users to watch content when it’s convenient for them. I don’t have any numbers on it, but I would imagine that the availability of old TV shows online has cut into the viewership of the new shows that the networks want us to watch.

NBC is being criticized for tape-delaying their content and being late to the game. The most obvious solution is to show it all live, but the average viewer (including me) isn’t going to stay up all night and forgo weekday mornings just to watch. I much prefer to watch it in the evenings. Besides, it isn’t really their way: their strength is the primetime content.

So I’ll be glued to my couch for the next 2 weeks after dinner. I got an antenna last week, which is pretty phenomenal. Assuming I don’t use my computer in specific parts of the room and don’t need the 2 end tables that it’s sitting on top of, the digital signal provides a perfectly clear HD image. I’ll be working my shower and other tasks into the commercial breaks to miss as little as possible. It’s a little inconvenient, but the primetime experience is just too good to do it any other way.

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