NBC Reluctantly Oks Olympics Tape-Delay
NBC prefers live coverage across the country, starting at 5 p.m. PST. The network's ratings for the Summer Olympics in Sydney -- which because of the time difference was tape delayed -- reached record lows.
"I am emphatic that delaying our primetime Salt Lake coverage is a mistake, which is exactly what I told the affiliate board when they first brought this issue to my attention earlier this year," said NBC Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol.
"We have each debated this issue passionately for months. I understand their position, but I simply don't agree with it."
On the other hand, a spokesman for the affiliate termed it a "win-win-win for everyone -- the viewer, the local affiliate and NBC."
"In this environment of strained relations between the networks and their affiliates, this is one case where NBC has clearly stepped up and weighed the issues and has concurred that this is in the best interest of their viewers," said Jack Sander, NBC affiliate board chairman and president of Belo's television group, told reporters during a conference call Monday.
Earlier this month, about 80% of the NBC affiliates on the West Coast indicated that they wanted to carry the Salt Lake games in tape-delay. Affiliates felt that since the number of households watching TV is lower at 5 p.m. in the West, viewing and ad sales would be down without the delayed feed. A recent telephone survey of 1,000 West Coast viewers found that for the most part they would not be available to watch the games at 5 p.m., said Sander.
The tape-delayed feed will start at 7:30 p.m. on the West Coast and end at 11, preserving both early and late local newscasts in their regular time periods. The live Olympic coverage will run until 11:30 p.m. on the East Coast, delaying the late news by a half-hour.
Although it will cost NBC more to provide a delayed primetime feed to West Coast affiliates, the network didn't ask for anything in return from the affiliates, according to Sander, who said that he is grateful to Ebersol for bowing to the affiliates' wishes.
"I figure I'll send him cigars. I'll get a lot more mileage from cigars than flowers," he said.