Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Notes

It's been widely reported (everywhere except on NBC, that is) that NBC is expected to lose $250 million on the Vancouver Olympics, as a result of the recession and overbidding (NBC reportedly paid $820 million to broadcast the Vancouver Games). That's bad news for NBC. But it's really bad news for the viewers. Obviously, in an effort to offset some of that expected loss, NBC will pad their Olympic coverage with even more commercials than usual. In previous Olympics on NBC, some of the commercial breaks lasted longer than the Olympic coverage that followed them. I can only imagine how long the commercial breaks will last during these Olympics. NBC's expected monetary loss also means that Brian Williams will be spending even more time hyping the Olympics than he did in 2008 and 2006. If Brian can manage to increase Olympic viewership even slightly, then it's possible that NBC may be able to charge higher rates for commercials. Beginning with the Jan. 23 story on figure skater Sasha Cohen, Nightly News has devoted 38 minutes of broadcast time to Olympic stories--and that's just through last night, before the opening ceremony even took place. Yesterday's Nightly News devoted a whopping 13 minutes (half of the entire broadcast) to the Olympics. Brian spent four minutes and forty seconds alone on a profile and interview with Lindsey Vonn. By comparison, a story about the one-month anniversary of the Haiti earthquake was given less than a minute. Using Nightly News to promote the Olympics is completely inappropriate, but NBC doesn't care about propriety when dollars are at stake.

The Nightly News producers are also hard at work using their broadcast to promote Olympic sponsors. During a Feb. 4 "news story" about the new Heinz ketchup packages, Brian went out of his way to insert a gratuitous plug for McDonald's--a major Olympic sponsor. During last night's story about Vancouver, a close-up of a British Columbia license plate pulls back to reveal the back of the car--which (hilariously) has a huge Chevy logo. Chevy just happens to be a major Olympic sponsor. (How long did the producer have to search before she found a Chevy?) Over the next two weeks, Nightly News viewers can expect many more "news stories" promoting Olympic sponsors. Inappropriate? Of course. Does NBC care? Of course not.

Note to the Nightly News producers: Alan Abrahamson isn't helping the broadcast. On Feb. 7, he described Lindsey Vonn by saying, "she's blond, she's pretty". That doesn't give him much credibility as an analyst. He should be downgraded to cheerleader. Or beauty pageant judge.

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