Ahhhhhhh the Olympics, the quadrennial sports patriotica during which we as a nation say to ourselves “I’m going to be a fan of competitive swimming from now on” only to forget about it two days later as we draft our fantasy football teams. And finally, this year, NBC will be live streaming every event to satiate our fleeting jingoistic war-metaphor mongering.
I love some Olympics, LOVE some Olympics. The first games I fell deep for was Barcelona 1992 when European basketball players still looked like THIS and asked for autographs while trying to guard THIS , and THIS GUY hit his head on the diving platform, and THIS GUY was the fastest man on earth, and THIS GUY and his dad made everyone cry. It was perhaps the greatest three weeks an 11 year old sports crazed wiener-kid could have asked for.
Sadly though most of the events were woefully inaccessible thanks to the idiotic Olympic Triple Cast, a pay-per-view plan that priced most of America out of the full gaming splendor. That was the last time, thank God, we were made to pay to watch what is supposed to be the ultimate symbol of good will and human brotherhood. Since then NBC has tried it’s best to smear the events over it’s broadcast and cable channels. They did what they could, but it was tough to navigate. Were we really supposed to hunt through pages and pages of event listings until we finally discover that the gold medal Archery event is on at 2am on Bravo? Come on. And of course there was the famous re-broadcasting for primetime fiasco that eliminated the joy of world wide communal watching that creates such a unique atmosphere. But this year promises to be different.
NBC has announced a partnership with YouTube to live stream EVERY event at London 2012. This arrangement is apparently a purely technological one though. YouTube.com won’t carry any of the events. They are merely lending their infrastructure and brandname to NBCOlympics.com where you can watch all the jocky goodness go down across the pond.
So what does this say about broadcast TV? NBC, the storied and sickly over-the-air elder statesman, is giving in to the power of the stream. Surely this is a precedent that will be followed from here on out. They had success streaming this year’s Super Bowl so this was a logical next step, but it is a HUGE step. The Olympics are NBC’s last dignified institution, so for Sarnoff’s baby to go all-in online says a lot about the old guard adopting the new kids platform. It can only be a matter of time before streaming all live sports, and even eventually entertainment programming, is the rule and not the exception.
Good for you NBC. Welcome to the present. Now for God’s sake will you please stream swimming year round? I promise this time I will keep interest, at least until Labor Day.