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Will tape delay hurt Olympics?

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Feb 11, 2010

Will tape delay hurt Olympics?

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Feb 11, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: American skier Lindsey Vonn said on her Twitter feed this afternoon she’s using a bunch of creams and painkillers to try to get over that shin injury she has. Bad weather on the slopes near Vancouver put off a scheduled training run today, which will give her a bit more time to rest. But when and if Vonn does finally race, you can bet her results — and the results of every other competition up there — are going to be all over Twitter and YouTube and Facebook almost as soon as they’re done. You might have thought that would have meant an end to tape-delayed television broadcasts of the games.

But then you wouldn’t be working at NBC if you thought that. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer reports on why these Olympics ought to offer a medal for the best spoiler alert.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Full disclosure here: I love to ski. But I’m not skiing this season. So I’m really, really looking forward to watching the Olympic skiers. Remember when downhill powerhouse Bode Miller came in just short of a medal in ’06?

2006 Olympics: So a mistake by Bode Miller at a critical part of the course, and he’s off the podium.

That news hit the Internet instantly, but it was easy to avoid, if you wanted to be surprised in prime time. It’s not so easy this year, courtesy of texting and Twitter. But NBC will still tape delay some major Olympic events, and show them later in prime time when audiences are big and the ad money pours in. Now, I don’t care if I know how things will turn out. I just want to see top athletes glide down courses that would flip me into a face-plant.

Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says I’ve got company.

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: Most people who are watching the Olympics are not looking so much at scores, they’re looking more at the beauty of the competition.

NBC is banking on that. But it’s also policing the Internet, to make sure its exclusive Olympic video doesn’t end up on YouTube or other sites.

Roger Noll says, good luck with that. He studies the economics of sports at Stanford.

ROGER NOLL: The problem is that you’re going to have 25,000 people at a ski jump event with their cell phones taking pictures of it, and there’s no way NBC is going to be able to stop that.

But media analyst Hal Vogel says NBC still has a major advantage.

HAL VOGEL: The large bulk of the population I believe wants to enjoy the full spectacle in full digital glory, and you don’t get that on your computer screen to the same extent.

At least, not yet.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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