Sunday, August 10, 2008
First let me make this perfectly clear. I am not, nor have I ever been any kind of sports fanatic. But I have to admit, the past few NBC television covered Olympic events have been pretty interesting to me, even as a total sports moron, and here's why:
#5) NBC gives a great back story to most of the top Olympic champions, in between their featured competitions. It's classic reality television. Want to know where the Chinese athlete grew up, or what the Norwegian sports hero did to rally after his childhood tragedy? Want to know what their favorite food is, or if they get along with their mother? It's all there. NBC brilliantly realized that many viewers could be hooked by getting a little taste of history on some of the folks in the competition.
#4) My cats like it. I can't begin to imagine why. But since Friday night's opening ceremonies, I've usually had one or two TV's on throughout the house tuned to the Olympic coverage and I can usually find a cat or two flopped on the floor giving it rapt attention. They do not feel this way about any other TV programming other than Animal Planet, so I feel it's worth mentioning.
#3) Some of it's actually "Live". You can pretty much catch coverage 24 hours a day on the various NBC properties, including MSNBC, USA cable, Universal HD and CNBC. I'm a huge fan of live television because "anything can happen". Mostly nothing weird ever happens, but you never know. What's cool about the "off prime" sub-channel coverage, is that they show some of the competitions that you wouldn't think would necessarily be an Olympic event. Like synchronized swimming. Who could not like that? It's like a Busby Berkeley movie. I also caught a fascinating bit early in the morning about women weight lifters, and actually saw the winning Chinese strong-girl lift her way to a gold medal.
#2) Michael Phelps. If Wheaties held a billion focus groups to invent the perfect sports champion, their creation could not be better than this real life athlete. He's a lean, mean swimming machine that seems like the nicest guy on the planet, and he looks amazing in the new spandex swimming things that they are allowed to wear now to cut the resistance in the water. All the headlines are saying he will be the one to challenge 1970's swim hero Mark Spitz for getting the most gold medals.
#1) It's mid August...hello? All the basic cable nets have already premiered their new stuff, while broadcast and pay-cable nets are waiting for September. Remember a couple of decades ago when Springsteen came out with that song, "57 channels and nothing's on?" Doesn't that seem quaint now? 500 channels, and until the new fall season, the Olympics look pretty good sometimes to this non-sports fan. I mean come on... one episode of Mad Men per week doesn't stretch that far.
A final post-script: Apparently the Nielsen ratings for the Olympics on NBC this time are the highest recorded since 1976. The Opening Ceremony delivered a 19 rating, 36 share (32.4 million US viewers), which represents a 27% increase over the last summer Olympics in Greece. For the complete story, visit MediaLifeMagazine online.