Must-See TV (When Networks Want to Show it)

There has been much anger displayed in the last week over NBC's terrible decision to show some of the matches from Wimbledon on tape delay, most notably the men's semifinal between Andy(s) Roddick and Murray. An American on tape delay? A shonde! ↵

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↵People took to the Tweets to proclaim their displeasure at NBC, and to some extent ESPN (although it seems the WWL's hands were figuratively shackled by the peacock on this one), going so far as to indict the entire sport of tennis for this error in programming judgment. ↵

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↵We have spoken, and we want our sports now. Not in an hour. Not in 10 minutes. Now. Heck, I watched many of the recent soccer and golf events "live" online and was irate -- words cannot express my vitriol -- because my feed was seconds behind that on TV and Twitter ruined at least four goals and too many putts to count. Five seconds behind and all the excitement was ruined. ↵

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↵So I'm with the American sports viewer when I focus my ire at NBC's brass. It seems, however, that NBC couldn't care any less about the American sports viewer. NBC has produced the Olympics for nearly every Games in my lifetime. Much of the Games are on tape delay (one wonders if even the ‘live' events are truly live). Think about how quickly a diver can get back up onto the high dive for the second round. Think about how every high jump or shot put or javelin toss you've ever seen has been on tape. And the average sports fan doesn't care. ↵

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↵Inexplicably, the average sports fan still doesn't read blogs. The average sports fan isn't following along on Twitter with thousands of others providing a never-ending amalgam of commentary and banter. How will I know truly how fast the serves are if not for 300 of my Twitter friends telling me? If you're reading this site, you're not the average sports fan. And NBC doesn't care about you. ↵

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↵NBC doesn't care about any of us. Sports is just programming to it, and if it thinks certain sports can ‘do a number' it'll put it in a spot where that number can be properly ‘done.' It cares about getting ratings, and for some reason still thinks that what it's putting out every day on the Today show -- more Michael Jackson talk followed by an update on the OctoMom, preceded by an in-depth interview by a weather guy talking to two people from The Hills -- is worth holding off on live tennis coverage. You and I are watching, if only to complain about the fact that it's not live. But the fact remains that most other Americans aren't. So NBC wants to maximize its audience, and that does not mean pre-empting the fourth, fifth and sixth hours of Today. Ooh, ↵Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford are having a dance-off, let's show the tennis at 4 p.m. ↵

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↵Again, NBC doesn't care about us. It cares about ratings. And people at NBC clearly know what doesn't get ratings, so we should trust them if they think it's not worth pre-empting a show that might do a number for a tennis match that they think won't. ↵

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↵And I don't think showing a match a few hours late is an indictment of the entire sport. What's the alternative for the ATP -- showing all its matches live exclusively on the Tennis Channel? I agree that some balance needs to be struck, and if NBC doesn't want to cut out of its existing lineup of kids shows and stay-at-home programming, it needs to either allow ESPN to show the matches or put the match on one of the 700 other networks it owns with a programming alert on the mothership. ↵

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↵We've become so used to getting things now. We need to know the outcome of everything while it's happening. Election results are projected with 1 percent of precincts in, because we've come to expect immediacy. When Michael Jackson died, it wasn't enough that I was watching ‘live' TV through my computer and reading updates by the minute on countless blogs, I was irate -- again with the vitriol -- because Twitter was on a 15-minute lag. This weekend's gaffe by NBC is just the latest in a long line of media -- both new and old -- not being able to keep up with our constant need for immediacy. The world is different now, and whatever media becomes will need to figure out a way to provide us with content as it's happening, even if it's streaming online or on another channel they own or right into our brains with lasers. ↵

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↵And yes, I wrote this three hours ago. Don't judge me. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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