Should NBC Leave Schmaltzy Olympic Profiles To The Advertisers?

Long before anyone could get mad at NBC for its glitchy Olympic webcasts, the network was padding out its tape-delayed broadcasts with overlong pre-taped video profiles of various competitors from the U.S. and around the world. But here’s an idea — rather than irritate viewers by interrupting the diving competition for a 10-minute bio of a 16-year-old and then going to commercial, why not just leave these stories to the people who specialize in heartstring-tugging schmatltz: advertisers.

Doing so would cut down on all the filler and allow the Olympics coverage to actually show, ya know, the Olympics. After all, though you might not know it from NBC’s prime time coverage, there are events that don’t involve, swimming, diving, gymnastics, sprinting or basketball.

Also, it would give advertisers and opportunity to engage viewers who enjoy the biographical pieces. Rather than just having your watch being worn by a generic model in a Speedo and swimming cap, you have the chance to attach your brand name to a few minutes of air time that some viewers might actually delay their pee-breaks for. And chances are these spots would be both better produced and more economical in their use of time.’s Farihah Zaman makes the case for foisting the mini biopics on to advertisers:

What is really unfortunate is that NBC is failing in its video content where commercials are succeeding with far less time or need. The little meet-the-athlete sidebars feel like hokey commercials with stock footage of scenic beaches or families posing on the playground, while a TD Ameritrade commercial about Jonathan Horton climbing to the ceiling of a department store as a child, or Yelena Isinbayeva learning the pole vault when her dreams of being a gymnast are dashed, are embarrassingly moving mini documentaries about the genesis of greatness.

We’re generally not fans of having every part of a sportscast sponsored (We’re pretty sure baseball announcers can read a batting order without the assistance of Pizza Hut), but this might be the rare case when handing something off to ad agencies would actually benefit viewers who tune in.


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  1. BrandonOBrien says:

    As I was watching some of the Olympics over lunch today I started wondering what percentage of Olympic coverage was actual events and what percentage was commercials and/or some kind of commentary about London or the athletes in general.

    I’m assuming the actual coverage of events is going to be relatively low compared to everything else that gets put up on NBC.

    • DuckNCover says:

      Earlier today they went to Jim Cantore, ostensibly for a weather forecast. And he went on for a good amount of time about the Tower Bridge, which was behind him (even joking with the guy in the studio about having been there for the opening, har har). To be honest, I can’t remember them ever getting to the London weather forecast.

    • Stickdude says:

      I just got back from lunch. I had the TV on for a total of 25 minutes.

      In that 25 minutes, they showed exactly 2 heats of the men’s 200m sprint.

      40 seconds of action – in 25 minutes of coverage.

  2. AstroPig7 says:

    Could they also cut out the fluff pieces they show instead of broadcasting an entire event? They’ve done this several times during beach volleyball matches: show the first set, show a fluff piece, and then show the third set without any hint of the second. Furthermore, they often jump into sets in medias res, and my wife and I are left wondering where the extra points in the score overlay came from.

  3. DaveInBillsburg says:

    It doesn’t matter, NBC ratings are through the roof for these Olympics, they are going to make money when going in they though they were going to lose money. They won’t change the format, the number of events that are tape delayed or the number of commercials since the prime time ratings are so high. If people weren’t watching they may change their tune, but people are watching. There was a survey I read recently that showed something like 60% of people would be MORE inclined to tune it to an event if they knew the result.

    • Benyth says:

      I’m watching in spite of the NBC coverage, not because of NBC Coverage. God how I wish that they would just treat the prime time coverage like ESPN SportCenter and give me everything, not just what they think that I want. And, for the love of God, great rid of Seacrest and Lauer. Those idiots are jokes.

      • scoosdad says:

        I’m thinking that because this is NBC’s first Olympics since 1992 without the hand of Dick Ebersol being involved in every aspect of the planning and production, we’re seeing these kinds of changes that are irritating to say the least. Not to mention this is the first Olympics that has Comcast’s ownership influence in it also.

        Take a look at Dick Ebersol’s wikipedia entry some time, and also Bill Carter’s excellent book “The War for Late Night”, about the Leno/Conan fiasco. Dick was generally acknowledged as the power behind the NBC throne in many of the key decisions that shaped NBC through the years of his involvement.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      I have to wonder how that survey was constructed. I’m skeptical that it really reflects reality.

      Regardless, my wife did the old DNS server trick to make the BBC think we’re in London so we’ve been watching a lot of stuff that way. I highly recommend it (google how to do it and there are a ton of how-tos).

    • lee says:

      that’s stupid thinking, in the UK they tell you what the event is maybe some titbits but saying ya we win with picture in the background cida defeats watching it on delayed tv

      i understand it for On demand stuff later on as you most likely all ready know the result, (bet the TiVo boxs fast forward button has had the Most use ever)

      in the uk we have 10-20 HD and none HD bbc channels to cover all types of running events (but they seem to be bit To active on cam changes was annoying the hell out of my dad on boat racing)+ the other 10 channels of other sporting operators doing there bit as well

    • frank64 says:

      They are not really going to make money, the are going to lose about 200 million. Comcast says they are going to break even only because they wrote down 200 million for the Olympics when they bought NBC.

  4. sir_eccles says:

    Profile of an athlete just before he races? Guess who wins his race?

    • DuckNCover says:

      Today they profiled a hurdler from, I believe, China. So of course the race start was focused on him…as he failed to even get over the first hurdle.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “genesis of greatness”

    I tip my hat to Zaman for finding such a fantastic way to word that.

  6. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    I hate those bios (especially when they start trotting out the family/kids), and they’re the main reason I don’t watch the Olympics at all. That air time could be used to show other events that are never aired, such as shooting events.

  7. bluline says:

    My DVR is getting heavy-duty use during the Olympics, and I’ve nearly worn out the FF button when blazing through the commercials and athlete profiles. The Games would be unwatchable otherwise.

  8. sparc says:

    i don’t see how ad agencies or advertisers would want to write biographies. From their point of view, they’ll be better off hiring that athlete to make a memorable 30 second commercial.

    • SavijMuhdrox says:

      actually the Morgan Freeman VISA Olympics commercials are kinda like biopics.. and i think they are well done..

  9. PupJet says:

    NBC for the GOLDEN POO AWARD of 2013!!!! It’d be fitting they get gold is SOMETHING!

  10. nightfly44 says:

    I record all the olympics, and watch them later so I can fast forward through all the detritus. The olympics that changed my viewing style was the one where NBC had three pay per view channels, and the on air stuff was minimal with lots of fluff; one hour I taped had 57 minutes of crap and only three minutes of event. Makes me yearn for the years when all we had was ABC’s wide world of sports 90 minutes on saturdays to show us the highlights of the whole damn thing.

  11. tlvx says:

    You lost me at, “it would give advertisers and opportunity to engage viewers…” (sic)

    That said, the NBC coverage is a horrible, discombobulation of the Olympics.