The Media Learning Curve: Feb. 12-26

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Why has NBC been so defensive about how it covers the Olympics? It’s the same story every two years, winter and summer, like death and taxes.

You know we’re going to get hosed if we want to watch live stuff. You know they’re going to do whatever it takes to maximize viewership in prime time.

End this vicious cycle now.

USA Today’s Mike Heistand had a great piece earlier in the games suggesting ways to fix this cruddy system — like allowing more different networks to own pieces of things. An ESPN could do live events all day long for those who treat the Olympics as a sporting event. NBC or someone else could have their prime-time wrapup shows and Mary Carillo features, for those used to seeing it that way.

Why must NBC hoard it all? Because it’s the American way.

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Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch (linked here) tried to peel back more of the NBC onion this week, and succeeded in just making us painfully aware that as long as Dick Ebersol calls the shots and is paid by the rating point, nothing will change.

Deitsch asked executive producer David Neal if the criticism of NBC delaying tape-delaying events was fair or unfair.

“I don’t even worry about giving it a rating in my head,” Neal said. “We believe in what we are doing here. The amount of time and effort that we put into preparing for the Olympic Games surpasses anything that I’ve been around. We have the strength in our convictions. We believe in what we are doing. We believe in the way that we present the Olympic Games. And I think the ratings back us up.”

And we have the angry viewers emails and Twitters that prove otherwise.

Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir gives us hope (linked here)

Olympic fans who crave the chance to see everything live may find an ally in ESPN, which would discontinue the tape-delay template if it wins the U.S. media rights to the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

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ESPN executive VP of content John Skipper said: “I don’t think nonlive is sports fan-friendly. … It’s hard for me to imagine, in our culture, not showing events live … (but NBC execs indicated that they) believe that its broadcast-focused model works and they do not envision a radical shift in 2012.”

Skipper said he does not see any negative effect of running all events live: “If you had a sports-fan presentation for downhill skiing, I don’t think you’d have less viewers.”

Skipper adds on NBC’s Olympics coverage, “I believe the restrictive manner in which they treat all aspects of the Olympics is very old school and I think, ultimately, not fan friendly. I think ultimately you could generate more interest in the Olympics and Olympic sports if we, for instance, had the opportunity to basically report on it, show videos, get people excited. At this point, what we have access to is very limited and it’s a very old-fashioned idea. … We believe in live. We just think at this point with technology and people’s expectations and the ability to get instant information, we believe in live.”

Sadly, NBC is averaging a 14.2 final Nielsen rating (25.2 million viewers) for its primetime coverage of the Vancouver Games through Tuesday night (12 telecasts), up 14 percent from the ’06 Turin Games and exceeding what they promised advertisers.

NBC’s Olympic coverage is also seeing double-digit increases among young viewers, according to a memo NBC Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol sent to the net’s Olympic workers on Sunday, the Sports Business Daily reports.

“Many of you know how much I cherish the fact that our Olympic broadcasts bring families together but nothing pleases me more than introducing young children to the ideals of the Olympics,” Ebersol wrote. … “Our audience polling tells us that 77 percent of parents say that the Olympics provides them a valuable opportunity to talk to their kids about positive values.”

In the memo, Ebersol quoted notes he has received praising NBC’s coverage from a first-grade class in New Jersey and a viewer from California.

Not the California viewers that we’ve talked to.

Ebersol then gloated this morning when news came out that the Olympics on NBC topped ratings for Fox’s “American Idol” for the second time in two weeks. “Idol” had been undefeated in six years (dating back to May 2004). When going head-to-head against “Idol” the Olympics had 19.2 million viewers against “Idol’s” 17.8 million.

“I never thought we would have the good fortune to beat the incredibly well-produced and enduring phenomenon of ‘American Idol’ even once. But twice?” Ebolsol said in a statement released by NBC today. “At best, I deeply believed we might come a little closer than we did four years ago because the show is such a powerhouse. We are happy to rent ‘Idol’s’ space for a few nights. All the thanks goes to the athletes of the world who give us these great stories to tell. Their stories are the stars of our show — and led to these two ‘miracles’ — just as the young entertainers are the stars of ‘Idol.’”

Yuck.

What else is out there to glean some knowledge from:

== Beware of the “ESPN Bandit” in Chi-town (linked here)

== You think you can be a sideline reporter:

== Tony Kornheiser’s remarks about Hannah Storm are just part of the biz in N.Y. TV (linked here). “That’s the nature of the beast, no matter how long or how much time women are in the field,” said WPIX/Channel 11′s Lolita Lopez.

== So Scott Van Pelt got punk’d … and managed to take it as a badge of honor because it’s happened to him before (linked here). That just kind of proves he’s not too bright. Nor does the fact he doesn’t even know when his mike is on … (linked here)

== ESPN wasn’t happy with Peter Pascarelli taking a swipe at Bud Selig, but in 21st Century Journalism, who hasn’t? (linked here).

== The MLB Net is, as expected, going spring training crazy (linked here). And the Dodgers’ 2010 TV schedule has no curveballs (linked here).

== Order your 3D TV now… from Sears (linked here).

== Did Aaron Boone major in communications at USC? (linked here)

== Johnny, are you Weir? Don’t ask the French (linked here).

AND FINALLY:

== NBC produced some numbers to make you forget it’s still getting smacked by Fox’s “American Idol” during its Winter Olympics coverage.

Such as:

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46% of Olympic viewers changed their typical routine to watch the Olympics.
34% delayed doing laundry or other household chores – including paying bills – in order to watch the Olympics.
59% said they didn’t watch some of their “regular shows” in order to watch the Olympics
35% of viewers cried or became teary-eyed while watching (25% among men)
66% of viewers cheered aloud while watching the Olympics
63% stayed up longer than usual to watch, resulting in 42% being “more tired than normal.”
42% of viewers said the Olympic sport they would most like to try is bobsled
(Source: Research Results)

In my house, 100 percent of the viewers cried while watching. My wife was upset that laundry hadn’t been done. I was upset that most of the stuff wasn’t on live. And our dog got sprayed in the face by a snunk. That adds up to a perfect score, including a point point in artistry.

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