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NBC Olympics Coverage Off to Gold-Standard Start

The elements that could have been most problematic for NBC’s coverage of the XXIX Summer Olympic Games – the 12-hour time difference, the sensitive political issue of China as the host country – turn out, so far, to have made the TV coverage of these games even better.

After the first weekend of this Olympiad, NBC is on the broadcast equivalent of a world record pace. And broadcast’s just the tip of the iceberg, because the family of Universal’s cable networks, and NBC’s Internet sites, are prominent players as well.

While computer diehards may be frustrated by NBC’s attempts to squelch unauthorized video of events held for delayed broadcast, the network has served its prime-time broadcast audience well.

Give the Chinese credit for a mesmerizing Opening Ceremony – easily the best yet. That set the stage for something special, and so did another ingredient supplied by the host country: the architecture of the primary venues. The Bird’s Nest was an immediate hit as the primary Olympic stadium Friday night – and already, the Water Cube building that houses the aquatic events ranks as a visually gorgeous structure, breathtaking from every angle, inside and out.

And Sunday night, when the U.S. men’s swim team stole the gold medal from heavily favored France in the 4×100m freestyle relay, it was the capper to a weekend of fabulous Olympics coverage. In that race alone, the TV technology was used to great effect to make things clear and exciting: the computer-generated graphics showing which swimmers, and countries, were ahead at each lap, as well as the superimposed world-record-pace line and all the underwater and overhead camera angles.

The U.S. swimmers did the rest, and this first weekend, in both ratings and reviews, should get NBC off to a monster start.