By not telling us what's taped, NBC shows no trust in viewers

Media Watch

July 21, 1996|By Milton Kent

Let the viewer beware: Not everything you'll see during the Olympics will be live.

That seems obvious with the sheer volume of activity and a tight NBC telecast schedule, but how will you know what's live and what's taped?

You probably won't, not if yesterday's first day of competition is an early indicator. The network did a fair amount of, shall we say, fudging, about what was happening as you watched, and what had already taken place.

Swimming and gymnastics commentators only casually, and we suspect, unintentionally, let a few time references slip in, but save for a few things on the schedule, like the swimming finals, most of what aired was on tape.

In not coming clean with the concept of live and tape, NBC isn't trusting its viewers to be sophisticated enough to watch something even if they know the event is over.

The good

Bob Costas and Dick Enberg were splendid as co-hosts of Friday's opening ceremonies, giving the proceedings all their proper reverence but staying away from pretentiousness.

The coverage paid off handsomely in the ratings, too. The Nielsen overnight survey of the top 33 markets indicated that the ceremonies drew a 27.2 rating and 47 share, with preliminary research showing that more than 90 million people watched all or parts of the telecast -- both American Olympic records.

The bad

We'll reserve judgment for now, over whether NBC is getting homer-happy in driving home the American angle, but swimming announcer Dan Hicks was a bit too enthusiastic last night in his call of the final of the women's 400-meter individual medley.

Hicks yelled, "You bet she can," as United States swimmer Allison Wagner edged Hungarian Krisztina Egerszegi for the silver medal in the race.

The gratuitous

Did you get the impression that the only important members of the American athletic delegation Friday were the men's basketball players? (No tacky marketing slogans allowed here.)

NBC's Hannah Storm seemed determined to interview every member of the "Hyped Hoopsters," to the near exclusion of the other more than 700 members of the delegation. Their whole presence poked a big hole in the classy point Costas made at the end of the telecast that most of the athletes aren't rich, and won't be made so by their appearance in the Games.

Today's highlights

The women's team gymnastics competition and swimming dominate the prime time block (Channel 11, 7 p.m.), with a planned "Dick Enberg Moment" centered on Gaithersburg's Dominique Dawes about 10 p.m.

Boxing is scheduled to air during the day (noon) and in the late night show (12: 30 a.m.), and the U.S. women's basketball team will make its only scheduled daylight television appearance, against Cuba, during the afternoon, before highlights of their games are shunted into late-night through the Games.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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