Aug 05

As we roll past the half way point in the London 2012 Olympic Games, we see NBC has been patting itself on the back for delivering the first “digital Olympics.” There’s a degree of truth to the label. A number of new innovations have been brought to the games that really bring the wow - robotic camera work has resulted in top notch footage. The availability of replay footage through mobile applications and are welcome improvements. But as a spectator, I feel like NBC has fallen short of the gold in delivering a modern digital experience.

Let’s reflect on the state of entertainment in the digital world. Underneath my TV, I have two boxes. One of them allows me to record scheduled programming and watch it at my convenience. With a little foresight, I can pre-record what I want to watch. The other runs apps that gives me access to a huge library of television shows, movies, and sporting events on demand in high definition. With almost any amount of hindsight, I can watch something I forgot to record in advance.

It seems like NBC wanted to do this, but the execution doesn’t live up to the standard.

It is completely impossible to pre-record an event. First, I would need to know when an event were going to air. It’s relatively easy to find when the event will occur (prior to the time delay), but there’s no way of telling when the footage will actually run. Even if you knew, the guide programming on cable shows Olympics coverage in huge blocks. You’d have to record and then sift through hours of unrelated footage just to see the specific event you wanted. Even then, the coverage you’re going to get aired on American TV is, understandably, Americocentric. A four-hour elimination round is compressed into a 15 minute highlight reel of the American teams’ performance. If it’s a sport that we’re not dominant in — say, Archery, for example — then coverage of what you want is merely a footnote; brilliant performances like Daniele Molmenti’s (ITA) amazing runs in the men’s K1 canoe slalom are lost, deep in footage reels most Americans won’t see.

Watching an event after the fact is certainly the way to go if you’re interested in something other than swimming, gymnastics, and track & field. But the data lacks granularity. Entire rounds are batched into a single video spanning 2-4 hours. Finding a specific match involves a lot of scanning within a video. One might think footage from bracket-style competitions could be organized for a viewer in a bracket-style interface, so we could chose to watch just a specific athlete or country play or watch the event chronologically.

It’s two years until Sochi and four until Rio. I’m hoping to see some dramatic improvements in how future Olympic footage is presented by then. I’ll even pay for the privilege. The athletes of the world deserve better than air time based off of how interested NBC thinks I am. The prime time hours are theirs, but give me better tools to watch the performances that drive me.

May 11
Our only rule on this show was no werewolves and no vampires.
Ryan Murphy, co-producer of American Horror Story, speaking about the upcoming second season.
May 10

I’m sick of it. I’ve been force-fed to bursting with it. Enough is enough. I’m finally compiling a definitive list of the worst things civilization has contrived to inflict upon itself after approximately 6500 years of trying. Join me! Together, we can finger-wag these truly awful things into yesteryear!

Somehow, this is your fault!

24-Hour Anything On Television

I’m not going to tell you that television is a bad thing, because it’s not. Television can be funny, entertaining, inspiring, even educational at its best. But there’s nothing that will turn your boob tube into a vile orifice for brain-numbing swill faster than tuning into a 24-hour network. News? Sports? Finance? Pick your poison; the effect is the same.

This is classy, and nationally televised!

There are 1440 minutes in the day, and a 24-hour network has to fill all of it that isn’t sold off to advertisers with “content”. The problem is that there isn’t 24 hours worth of content on any subject without focusing intensely on minutiae. Routinely, I can’t find myself in a locker room without listening to two grown men literally scream at each other in a point/counterpoint on something a basketball player tweeted the night before. I recall tuning into CNN while we waited for Obama’s announcement about the death of Bin Laden. To fill the gap between when coverage began and the speech started, Wolf Blitzer at one point used the phrase, “I/We don’t know,” five times in a row. We get it, Wolf: you’re more terrified of dead air than you ever were of Bin Laden.

This man killed the news. Fox fans, don't snicker. Your "friends" aren't any better.

These networks feed off of one another, filling the air with something less like informational cannibalism and more like information inbreeding. You get the original event, the insider reaction, the point and counter point from the professional pundits, the reaction to the reaction, and if you tune in next hour you get it all over again. Journalistic integrity was already aging poorly, but this behavior has smothered the old man and slipped a letter opener between his ribs to ensure the job was done. They act like FYI stands for, “For Your Ignorance,” letting politicians and lackeys from both sides of the aisle unilaterally spew untruth into the world so fast that can’t keep up.

I reserve a bit of leeway here for the Weather Channel. At least they’re forward with the fact that they basically make small talk all day. Unlike anything on ESPN, CNN, Fox News, or CNBC, it’s almost always relevant and actionable. I can even forgive their exuberance in the coverage of extreme weather. It’s true drama from both a human and a natural perspective, and it’s the tat opposite the tit of a 30% chance for rain. Even these guys can’t stick to the monotony of a full-day schedule of chatting up the current conditions. Lately they’ve been filming History Channel style docuseries to air during the evening hours.

Meteorologists get hot for this.

If you love your kids, don’t tune in to this crap. I want to know what’s happening in the world, too - watch the news once a day, or use that Internet. There’s no shortage of sites with your preferred flavor of spin, and it’s sure to taste less bitter once a day than sprayed all over your schedule. There’s no one in the world who actually benefits from this non-stop stream of venom and vitriol, so I declare that 24-hour television networks are collectively one of the worst things civilization has ever come up with.

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