If you’ve ditched your cable recently amid the promise of free broadcast HD and Internet streaming, you were probably surprised yesterday if you are also a hockey fan who went looking for the much hyped USA/Canada Olympic hockey battle. NBC, in their infinite programming wisdom (cf. the recent Tonight Show fiasco), pushed out a hockey game that turned out to be a stunner and an upset victory for Team USA. However, if you went searching for it on your local NBC affiliate you got to view a series of uplifting sob-stories and then some ice dancing instead. Let me repeat: Ice Dancing. Prancing in frilly, rhinestone-studded costumes on skates. The Winter Olympics equivalent of synchronized swimming. A rather bloodless affair that carried no tension, no excitement, nothing really to cheer for unless you’re a huge Bob Fosse On Ice fan. Instead of flying hockey pucks you got frostbitten jazz hands, suckers.
Apparently NBC figured you-the-viewer would prefer to watch the game in standard def on its cable backwater, MSNBC… because when we think of sports we all automatically think the bastard-stepchild of Microsoft and the Peacock. I don’t know about you, but when I want to see endless liberal hobnobbing about current events and the news of the day, I head to MSNBC. When I want to see Olympic sporting events that may or may not make history, I turn to the channel that’s supposed to be carrying this worldwide broadcast for free. Free… remember that…? Free TV sponsored by advertisers available for all to see? NBC, apparently under the impression that we all subscribe to cable and/or satellite to receive our televised entertainment, seems to already be deeply under the sway of soon-to-be newboss, Comcast. Their dedication to their Olympic viewers shows… Rather than watch an incredible team sport that is actually, y’know, meaningful in the larger scope of the Olympics brand of rah-rah nationalism, NBC decided to go the weird touchy-feely route and on its broadcast station (your local NBC affiliate) and, immediately following the Russian/Czech hockey showdown (which would have made a great lead-in, duh!) began to showcase personal stories of Olympic heartbreak and overcoming obstacles (sob, weep) before going gangbusters with, I’ll say it again… Ice Dancing. Surprisingly, NBC neglected to hire Danny Terrio to host and announce the event.
If you, the hockey fan, tried to go the streaming media route, you were met with resistance as NBC’s website required you to list your cable/satellite company (and your user/password) to prove you were a cable or satellite subscriber. Free TV this was clearly not. So, any attempt to view the live hockey event via NBC’s website utilizing Microsoft’s Silverlight streaming media viewer was a no-go if you didn’t already pay a fee to your content provider (cable or satellite). This proves to be true a day later… if you want to see the entire archived game, you still need a paid cable or satellite subscription. NBC, it seems, really doesn’t get streaming media (you’d think they’d put this stuff on Hulu. But it’s another sign of the coming of Comcast that NBC is blowing Hulu off for Olympic broadcasts in order to satisfy the insatiable greed of cable/satellite companies who figure they have sole right to re-broadcast the events for a fee (albeit a standard subscription fee, but still).
NBC gave viewers a massive fail. By all accounts, if your cable or satellite provider didn’t carry MSNBC in HD (and many do not), then even if you were able to see the game you were treated to standard definition without fine detail and stunning color that one expects when they’ve spent their hard-earned bucks on an HD TV and a cable fee. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, NBC figured that women are the biggest audience for the Winter Olympics and they prefer events like… here it is again: Ice Dancing. It’s where the biggest viewership is, according to NBC, and where the bottom-line (shareholder value, cable re-broadcast fees) is best satisfied… So, hockey fans, if you don’t get cable or satellite via a paid subscription… then NO HOCKEY FOR YOU! And even if you do, then you might not get what you pay for. Fail, NBC… big, big fail.