The good news from London is this is the first Olympics I can recall in which the phone/email system isn’t jammed with people who are upset because we mentioned who won medals, spoiling their evening TV.
Maybe people have been successful avoiding all forms of media and the titterings of colleagues. More likely, however, is people have realized their fun isn’t really spoiled by knowing who’s going to win.
Sometimes suspense ruins good viewing. I often taped sporting events, for instance, fully intending to watch it as if it were live. More often, though, I’d zip to the end, see if my team won, and then fully enjoyed the “how” part of it more than I otherwise would have (assuming my team won; otherwise I’d just hit delete).
NBC apparently realized this phenomenon too, according to the Associated Press.
NBC chief researcher Alan Wurtzel says that two-thirds of people who said they knew the results ahead of NBC’s tape-delayed telecast said they would watch the events anyway. People who watched the events earlier in the day via computer stream watched the tape-delayed broadcast for a longer time than those who hadn’t.
Wurtzel and NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, were on a conference call today that sought to defend criticism of NBC for tape-delaying broadcasts.
Lazarus said the London Games — tape-delayed as they are — have higher ratings than the prime-time live broadcasts from China four years ago.
Tuesday’s broadcast of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team winning gold, and Michael Phelps winning two races, garnered a 21.8 rating. Game 5 of the NBA Finals, got a 12.6 rating on ABC. Only one of those was live.
Bottom line? Sometimes what people say they want, isn’t really what they want. NBC knew that.
Update 2:25 p.m. — I spoke too soon. This just in:
Why are you putting this on the front page of the MPR website? The event has not yet been broadcast and I was looking forward to this event more than any other in the Olympics. Is it so hard to publish a headline to the affect of “Female Gymnast Claims All Around Gold”, so that a viewer can click on the story and you don’t ruin the surprise for people who have to work all day, like me? I am so disappointed and I expected so much more from MPR. Shame on you. Please take this headline down so you don’t ruin it for more people.
Let me take this one:
Dear audience member:
It’ s not the job of the news media to set your agenda for your TV viewing. It’s the job of the news media to tell those people who want to be informed of the day’s events, what those events were. We write headlines the same way we would for any other news story.
This is not the last scene of The Dark Knight Rises we’re talking about here. This is an event widely considered to be current news.
I understand that while others may want to be informed as events occur, you would not want to have the event spoiled. That’s why the responsibility for avoiding the news rests primarily with you.
To do otherwise is an utter failure of a news organization. And, by the way, it would also require staff to rewrite headlines for archival purposes after a suitable time has passed. That’s an expense that distracts from what we do — tell people what happened today.
Personally, I’ve never felt any shame for doing so.
Update 2:32 p.m. – My colleague, Paul Tosto, has reminded me of a 2004 study involving a Minnesota researcher who determined that humans swim just as fast through syrup as they do through water.