Fort Mill Times

Gallimaufry - August 13, 2008

Jeff Shrewsbury is a writer living in Fort Mill. You can see an archive of his columns at, or e-mail
Jeff Shrewsbury is a writer living in Fort Mill. You can see an archive of his columns at, or e-mail

For the next week or so, I'm resigned to the fact that I'm not going to get enough sleep. Because the Olympics began last Friday night, it's been hard for me to put down the remote and go to bed.

You see, I just love the summer games, and when they are broadcast live - even when they're coming from 12 time zones away - I can't get enough. And it seems, perhaps for the first time, NBC has figured out I'm not alone.

Between NBC's flagship commercial network and its cable properties USA, CNBC and MSNBC, we're finally getting a chance to see thousands of hours of raw, unedited coverage.

Back in 2000, when the summer games were in Sydney, NBC executives figured that because the games were half-a-world away, no one in the U.S. would stay up all night to watch obscure sports such as fencing, air rifle shooting, badminton, table tennis, beach volleyball or women's weightlifting. They reasoned in their pointy little heads that viewers only wanted to see the finals of the more well-known sports and would be content to watch taped coverage between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

But they were wrong.

What they didn't understand is that people want to watch the events live regardless of what time they're on and whether an American is involved.

NBC pays billions each year for the exclusive rights to broadcast the games and has only lost money once (1992, Barcelona) since it took over coverage in 1988. NBC used to only broadcast a few hours of coverage a night during prime time and charged premiums for advertising and sponsorships. They tried to hoard the coverage and often presented taped delays.

But that's old-school thinking.

With the rise of mainstream broadband Internet and 24-hour cable TV, most people can find video from around the world just minutes after it happens, if not live. NBC execs finally figured out that viewers don't have to, or want to, wait for prime time anymore, and the network adjusted its resources accordingly.

And I, for one, am tickled pink - even if a bit sleepy.