About BTiell Sports Reports

Dr. Bonnie Tiell writes a monthly column for the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune Sports Department (http://www.advertiser-tribune.com/). This blog archives each column and dates back to the 2008 Olympic Academic Experience in Beijing, China. Check out the Blog Archives to read more. Check out info about the TU Olympic Academic Experience at http://www.tuolympics.blogspot.com/ and contact Dr. Tiell at btiell@tiffin.edu

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The one media advantage in having the Olympics in Vancouver will be the time zone factor. America's proximity will provide unprecedented prime time coverage (which is usually the case anyway when events are scheduled purposefully to accommodate the American public). But, will there be an audience to watch the upcoming Games?

Don't hold your breath.

The Winter Olympics always competes with shows that are stepping up the drama and comedy during the all-important sweeps week. This year, the Games will run head-to-head with "American Idol" and plenty of top-rated series. On the flip side, the summer Olympics always has a wide open shot to capture media attention with little competition from popular series, which are usually in re-runs during the months of hiatus.

Actually, NBC reportedly expects to lose money on its broadcast of the Vancouver Olympics after paying more than $800 million to secure the media rights (it also shelled out $600 million for the Torino, Italy Games). It's the first time a loss is expected on an Olympic broadcast. Even the monstrous increase in the hours of live Internet video streams isn't expected to help NBC cash in.

Despite expecting a monetary loss, NBC has a goal to attract 200 million American viewers, which is a seemingly lofty ambition considering the Beijing Olympics, tagged as "the most viewed event in television history" drew 215 million.

So, what will NBC do to try to get the public to tune in?

First of all, the Vancouver Olympics will be the first ever to shot entirely in high definition. Veteran broadcaster Al Michaels is back too - his voice was the one that captured the "Do You Believe in Miracles?" when the 1980 U.S. amateur hockey team upset the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBC is also doing its share of promos. The Jay Leno Show recently featured US snowboarder Gretchen Bleier doing a Q&A session. Expect to hear more feature stories on personalities such as Angela Ruggirio, who survived nine episodes on Trump's 2007 "Apprentice" before returning as a player for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women's Hockey league. There may be more on Katie Uhlaender, a skeleton racer who was a camera assistant for the popular "Survivor" series in the Cook Islands. American women are expected to have a great showing with the likes of Lindsay Vonn - Sports Illustrated's cover girl who is projected to become the Games' biggest star for her supremacy on the slopes.

Three Olympians have ties to the NFL, and an Alpine skier has drawn attention for his week-long stretches of eating spinach at every meal. There also is Shani Davis, who is often compared to Eric Heiden for his skating dominance despite being his own coach.

Ready to tune in yet?

NBC Universal will televise more than 800 hours of Olympics programming on the broadcast network and cable affiliates like CNBC, MSNBC and USA. I remember being in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games craving pro-USA or even just "balanced" media coverage by any station.

When our group wasn't in the stands of a game, we were ready to be armchair quarterbacks, which usually meant consuming the games on the small black and white television sets in our dorm rooms. Unfortunately, our only options were the BBC channel or one of 9 million Chinese stations - most which replayed the Opening Ceremonies if home country athletes weren't faring well in an event. Oh - don't forget - we did have access to the Internet .when it wasn't censored by the government. At least those Americans traveling to Vancouver will appreciate being in an English-speaking country with a bit more balanced media broadcasts.

Besides NBC having a lot on the line for the Games, the host country is feeling an uncertain amount of pressure bordering on obsession. In 2004, Canada created the high priced "Own the Podium" campaign and expects to reap the benefits. The usually humble Canucks have become intent on staging a world-domination party by winning more medals than any other country in the 2010 Games. In fact, reports call for a nation of mourning if the Canadian Hockey team doesn't produce gold.

Canada won only five medals the last time it hosted the Games in Calgary 22 years ago. Measuring the success of the Games is largely dependent upon the performance of the home team athletes, and in fact, many Canadians agree it is the ONLY measure of success. Canada's federal government and the Vancouver organizing committee have spent more than $117 million on athlete recruitment, medical support teams, international training, and high-tech equipment. The emphasis has been on researching technological improvements in any and everything that would produce even a minuscule (and legal) competitive advantage. In essence, in terms of preparation, resources, and incentive, Canada has left no stone unturned.

Owning viewership is NBC's vision and owning the podium is Canada's vision. When the Games end on Feb. 28, the world will know how each fared.

Whether America tunes in or not is a different story.

Stay tuned for a post-Olympic wrap-up and more sports reports in the frozen months ahead.

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