by: danah boyd
Last night, I went to bed watching girls' gymnastics. I found myself very irritated. There were 24 girls in the finals, but NBC focused only on those that they thought would medal. The result is that there was tremendous downtime that the announcers filled with speculation, gossip, and historical reminiscing. I was quite irritated because what I wanted was to see more gymnastics. Anyone who is at the Olympics has to be fascinating to watch - why only focus on those who are likely to medal?
Come to think of it, everything about how NBC has covered the Olympics has been abysmal. Last weekend, I was with a hardcore copyright conservative who kept arguing that people watching the opening ceremonies online were cheating NBC out of money. I countered that what these people were doing was indicating what the market wanted. Many were happy to watch the Chinese CCTV version live instead of waiting until what NBC declared to be "primetime." Personally, I was quite annoyed with NBC starting around 5.30AM when we woke up to watch the opening ceremonies only to learn that they weren't covering it live. So, logically, we went to NBC's homepage to see if they were streaming it live. No. That's where I think that NBC fucked up royally. I don't know why they decided that the Today Show was more important than the opening ceremony, but they did. Still, there was no reason to not stream it live on their website. I would've happily sat through dozens of commercials to see it live. Instead, I TiVoed it and watched it sans commercials. Big win on NBC's part, right?
What NBC has tried to do is configure its viewers. They've told everyone how they should watch the Olympics and are peeved when people have a different idea of how they want to watch this symbol of nationalism. Normally, the people have no choice. Yet, because of the Internet, there's a lot of push for alternatives. Of course, personally, I'm just angry and annoyed. I can think of so many ways that NBC could've handled this better. What I want is Olympics 2.0.
I want an Olympics where the "best" is broadcast on TV, like now. But I also want an interactive version. Take gymnastics. I want to know on each apparatus who is up live. And I want to be able to switch between different cameras and choose my own view through the stadium so that I can watch whichever competitor I want. I want to be able to watch live, all day, on ALL sports (even judo and the other weird ones where Americans are not so present). I want interactive live and I want to be able to pull down and follow any individual Olympian or team through their events at a later point. I want the Olympics to be treated as a bunch of spliceable objects that I can remix live for my own viewing pleasure. And I want to be able to see it ALL. Is that that hard to ask for? Hell, I'd be willing to pay for such interactive watching options. And I'd certainly be willing to watch ads to see things LIVE. But boy does it annoy me to watch a "live" NBC broadcast that is already well reported on in the NYTimes.
So can I please have Olympics 2.0? And dear International Olympic Committee, please don't sell exclusive rights to the next Olympics to an organization who is doing more to curtail and configure access than to engage the market the way that they want to be engaged. And NBC, would you stop being so antiquated and leverage new media for what it's good for?