If NBC wanted people talking about London's Summer Olympics, consider that goal achieved.
True, much of the talk inspired by NBC's coverage so far has been less than glowing. We're only four days in, and already there's a Twitter pile-on at #NBCfail (if you follow it, prepare to be deluged) and a growing chorus of complaints aimed at Ryan Seacrest, who seems to have tapped into the deep reservoir of disdain every annoyed sports fan has ever felt about any lightweight, extraneous sideline reporter.
In the long run, NBC would rather the chatter not include concerns about Michael Phelps' struggles or gymnastics missteps: If you think it's hard to get people to watch tape-delayed victories, try selling tape-delayed disappointments. But for now, as long as the Olympics stay in the forefront of the national conversation, NBC will take it.
That includes, by the way, the attacks on NBC for withholding events such as the Opening Ceremony and Sunday's medal races in swimming for taped prime-time broadcast rather than streaming them live — as it does for many less-marquee events. It's certainly true, as the see-it-now crowd insists, that the Internet has changed the way people can access content. But as of yet, it hasn't changed the economics of paying for content.
And for NBC, that's the problem. It has paid $1.18 billion fee to broadcast the Games. It can't make that money back by giving away big-draw events in the close-to-free world that is still the Internet.
Still, if you are going to gather us in prime time to see the Opening Ceremony, then you should show it to us once you have us. Which means not cutting away from a boisterously, Britishly odd opener that was setting new standards for strange, excising a musical tribute in the process, to go to Seacrest. And that certainly means not interrupting Saturday's coverage for a Seacrest interview with Phelps' family that was capped by Seacrest's proclamation that "It's fun to see them in their real lives, because they've got real lives." Thanks — who knew?
As if to compound the problem, the network then had him lead a back-slapping Twitter-walk through Opening Ceremony compliments. Is someone trying to undercut him before he can even get started, or is Seacrest's news judgment truly that awful?
Talk like that, NBC really doesn't need.