More channels and more media options are, basically, a good thing. More options means individuals are empowered. However, at the risk of being nostalgic, the downside is a loss of community. Back in the day when there were only three networks, there was a much greater communal experience – we all watched the same thing, then talked about the next day. Most people thought those days were gone forever. But then along came the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
And suddenly, inexplicably, everybody is watching. And talking about it. In the office, in the neighborhood, it’s the number one topic of conversation.
Is it just a collective fascination with Michael Phelps?
NBC is doing a good, but not great, job of production – Bob Costas is still smug and condescending and swimming “sideline” reporter Andrea Kramer acts as if she’s never seen a pool. But, Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines are outstanding on swimming, Al Trautwig and the gymnastics announcing team are appropriately melodramatic and that Nancy Grace-sounding lady on diving really knows her stuff.
But I think the biggest reason we’re all sharing these Olympics is that NBC has successfully woven together broadcast and cable the Internet, traditional television broadcast, on-demand video, text messages, podcasts and RSS feeds.
In particular, the non-TV aspects of NBC’s presentation have been stellar – online, they are offering tons of video and highlights on demand. Every thing is streamed online as it occurs – NBC isn’t holding back so they can show everything in prime time, as they did in Olympics past when they introduced the absurd concept of “plausibly live.” The result is that they expect more than a billion web hits during these Games.
The network seems to have figured this out at the right time- the public’s access to broadband digital content is now at the point where we can fully enjoy what the network is capable of bringing to us. Finally, after a good solid decade of poor presentation of the Games, the network is on the same page as the audience.
The result is a spectacular multi-media presentation of the Olympics – one that record numbers are enjoying and talking about the next day at the water cooler. It’s like the Olympics used to be… only better.