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Has Technology Helped or Hurt the Olympics?

Has Technology Helped or Hurt the Olympics?

As I watched the Olympics over the last two weeks I kept arguing with myself- has technology helped or hurt the Olympics? The truth is, I still haven’t won or lost the argument. With this being the 30 year anniversary of the Miracle on Ice hockey game I watched a lot of retrospectives on the event. Besides the actual winning of the game, one thing that kept resonating with me was remembering that the game actually occured during the day and was shown tape delay that night. Because there was barely cable TV and it was long before the internet or 24 hour news/sports channels on cable, few knew the US had actually won until the game aired that night. Over the last 30 years, specifically, over the last 15 years, TV ratings for the Olympics have declined, except for the years in which the Olympics were held in time zones where most events could be shown live. Declining ratings, in my opinion, can be directly attributed to the internet and 24 hour news/sports coverage. Die hard viewers will always watch, but those who are more peripheral enthusiasts are less likely to watch an event if they already know the results. Over the last two weeks if I wanted to watch something at night that happened during the day it was a lot of effort to not hear the results before watching that night. Because less and less events are shown live, NBC has to resort to stringing you along for 3 hours before they finally show the winning U.S. person in their 2 minute performance. And that’s also why we get the never ending tear jerker personal profiles. The primetime telecast of the Olympics is less about the actual events and more about doing anything possible to keep viewers. With that said, the Olympics that just finished got great ratings.

On the other hand, 30 years ago if an event wasn’t on the main network it wasn’t shown. These past Olympics besides the daily and nightly coverage on NBC we also had MSNBC and USA. If we didn’t have 3x the coverage we definitely had twice the coverage than if we just had NBC. The increased coverage is 100% credited with the infatuation people have with Curling now. People started getting in to Curling when it was shown as an after thought on those networks 4 and 8 years ago during the Olympics. More coverage means more exposure for the secondary Olympic sports which I think it good. Also, there is something really cool about watching downhill skiing and ski jumping at 500+ frames per second. Seeing details in extreme slow motion gives you a completely different sense of the action. All the different slow-mos and all the different camera angles really give you a different view of the events.

So there you have it. Don’t know where I really stand. Maybe I’ll pick up the argument in 2 years after the Summer Olympics or 4 years after the next Winter Olympics.

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As COO of IDEAS, John manages the day-to-day operations of the company. He is a category expert in studio production and is responsible for bringing advanced digital media technology to IDEAS.