Thursday, August 02, 2012

On the platform

The only place to watch the Olympics right now is through NBC and its affiliates. There's a ban on other outlets using the clips of the Games, particularly in the window right after the events are completed. It's standard procedure for NBC, which invested zillions in the broadcast and wants to protect the ratings. So far in that sense, it seems to be working, as the ratings are huge.

Still, there's an odd side-effect. For that, we have to switch the channel.

We all know that ESPN has become a giant in the sports broadcasting business, almost overshadowing everything else. No one is better than promoting an event than ESPN. It has a variety of platforms for that purposes, from the television stations, to radio, to websites, to the magazine, etc.

But when ESPN doesn't have the rights to an event, you notice the lack of promotional muscle right away. In this case, that applies to the Olympics.

The network isn't ignoring the Games per se. They do have results on the crawl, and the stories are often the lead story on Sportscenter. But without the action clips, the outlet is reduced to showing interviews and still photos -- in other words, not exactly compelling television for a channel that is devoted to providing exactly that.

What has ESPN done? Moved into the lovely little town of Cortland, New York, where the New York Jets are staging training camp. I've covered training camp, and there's a reason no one writes romantic prose about it like people do for spring training. It's hot, and it's boring. There's not much news there, unless someone gets hurt.

But Cortland is hosting Tim Tebow, so ESPN -- which shows the Monday night NFL games -- sent a crew there for updates. Today ESPN breathlessly reported that the Jets were going to start practicing the Wildcat offense with Tebow at the controls.

Meanwhile, on ESPN2, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless started "First Take" by breathlessly talking about ... Eli Manning. Hold on to your hats on that one.

When I go searching for an update on all categories of news (including sports), I'd like an unbiased viewpoint of what's going on. I don't want the editorial department's views to leak into the newspaper, I don't want a certain political slant to bubble up like a gusher into news coverage (which is why Fox News' deliberate breaking of the mold was so disturbing), and I don't want the marketing department calling the shots on what's important. And no one markets like ESPN.

ESPN calls itself the Worldwide Leader in sports for good reason, but sometimes it's good to remember why you have been told a particular story is worth watching.

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