NBC tape-delay drops the ball

I living on the West Coast two years, I am shocked how popular tape delay is here. From KCAL tape-delaying the start of Lakers games on the East Coast one hour to the fiasco of this year’s Olympics, tape-delaying seems to be all the rage out here.

While the foolishness of KCAL with the Lakers is worthy of a column in itself, I will save that rant for a more timely date. However, after dealing with NBC sticking its tongue out to the West Coast for a week, I can’t hold my tongue on its Olympic coverage anymore. As far as its treatment toward anyone born west of Dallas, NBC gets a big, fat F.

As I write right now, I’m watching the women’s marathon – a race that took place several hours ago – instead of watching Michael Phelps going for his 8th gold medal live (I actually know the result, but I will not spoil it for anyone who is hopelessly trying to kill two-plus hours to avoid it). Why I’m doing this on a Saturday is beyond me. What is the logic of tape-delaying on a non-work day? Is there any logic whatsoever?

The answer is no. While on Monday through Friday, NBC can make the argument about people on the West Coast not getting home from work on time, that argument holds no water on Saturday. In fact, Saturday afternoon/early evening is a much better time to show live Olympic feeds than Saturday night, when people are usually out for the evening. But for whatever reason, NBC feels that Michael Phelps’ race has to be seen at 10/11 p.m. all over the country instead of in real time. They make us on the West Coast wait, avoid the internet and avoid any television besides perhaps the Disney Channel, when they could have just shown it live. In the information age, where one can check their stock portfolios on the phone, the concept of tape-delay is an extremely antiquated one. Add in tiVo, which allows people to “tape-delay” shows on their own if they so choose, and its unnecessary and insulting for NBC to hold 20 percent of its national audience hostage. Those insults become even more callous when NBC keeps the “Live” graphic on the upper right hand corner of the screen for the tape-delayed action.

Even during the Monday through Friday work week, there’s no reason not to show the primetime footage live. While the majority of the 9-to-5 population doesn’t arrive at home in time to see the beginning of the coverage, almost all of them are at home by 7 p.m. – the average time which each of Phelps’ races have started at. For a west coast 9-to-fiver, it would have been nice to get home after a long work day, turn on the TV and witness Phelps’ run for gold while in relaxation mode. Instead, the interested viewer has to get home and avoid all television and internet for 3-4 hours, while trying to stay awake long enough to witness history.

As far as people missing the 5-6 p.m. events due to traffic, all you have to do is show a tape-delay feed immediately after the live feed – or an hour later in allowance of local news. So you can run the main feed from 5-10 p.m., have your 10 o’clock news, and then run a tape-delay from 11 p.m.-4 a.m. for those who want to see what they missed the first time. There’s nothing wrong with tape-delay if you have the option to see it live, but when you are forced to wait for the tape delay, its obnoxious and it reflects poorly on the coverage as a whole.

One of the perks about living on the West Coast – besides the weather – is the ability to watch an entire evening of sports without having to stay up past 10 p.m. Being able to watch a day’s worth of college football, for example, and still being able to hit the bars at 10:30 p.m. is something that I treasure. With its tape-delay coverage of the Olympics, NBC has taken away the biggest advantage a sports fan on the West Coast has. I truly hope that come 2012, NBC doesn’t repeat that gameplan.