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No Medals for NBC, Gold for TripleCast

Finally, the Olympics are over, and it is time to reflect on what was, from a television standpoint, a historic event.

Someday, American historians will point to the 1992 Summer Games at Barcelona as the first to be televised on multiple channels. And they will wonder how an Olympics was ever televised on a single channel.

“It must have been awful,” they will say.

Yes, it was.

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What NBC did to the Barcelona Games will always be a reminder of that.

NBC lied to viewers so as to make them believe what they were seeing was live. It altered the order of events, shortened some and lengthened others. It did everything possible to string viewers along so they wouldn’t switch over to a repeat of “Roseanne” or “Murphy Brown.”

Then there were all those over-produced features and profiles and those awful “world premiere” music videos.

NBC had a worse Olympics than Sergei Bubka.

The final insult came Saturday when NBC showed the marquee event, the Dream Team in the championship game, tape-delayed in the West.

NBC could have shown the game live at 1 p.m. by simply moving its block of Olympic coverage to a three-hour earlier start in the West. But no, it opted for a later start because the accountants say a later start gets a higher rating.

What next? A tape-delayed Super Bowl?

Those geniuses at NBC might be saying, “If we tape-delay the Super Bowl, think of the possibilities. We could string it out and insert player profiles between plays. Every player who has a tear-jerker story to tell would get a profile.

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“Hey, if the second quarter turns out to be exciting and the third quarter is boring, we could flip-flop ‘em and then during the dull third quarter could tell viewers to stay tune for the exciting second quarter. The sponsors will love it.”

NBC’s foibles will soon be forgotten. But what will long be remembered is what appears to be the start of something big--multichannel coverage for multifaceted events.

It will be written that the pay-per-view TripleCast venture was a failure because of all the money it lost, probably somewhere around $100 million.

But the TripleCast was not a failure. Take away the financial losses, and it was a roaring success. Just about anybody you talk to who plucked down $131.25, including tax, loved it.

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“My in-laws bought it for me as a birthday present, but if they have it at Atlanta, I’ll pay for it myself,” one happy customer said.

But there probably will be no pay-per-view for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. “The IOC has made it abundantly clear that there will be no pay-per-view,” said Dick Ebersol, NBC Sports president.

One of the major appeals of the TripleCast was live coverage to counteract NBC’s delayed coverage. Network coverage from Atlanta will be live.

A major flaw with the TripleCast was the price. A more reasonable price, say $75, probably would have meant a lot more sales, and less total losses.

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Also, too many antiquated cable systems still exist, and they were not able to offer the TripleCast.

One other thing. The network, in this case NBC, didn’t need to show 161 hours of free coverage.

For those who didn’t want or couldn’t afford the TripleCast, a two- or three-hour nightly highlight show would have sufficed. Just eliminate all the unwanted glitz--the studio chatter, the interviews, the features, the music videos.

The purity of the TripleCast coverage was probably the most appealing aspect. Even the equestrian events were worth watching on the TripleCast. Really. The individual jumping final on Sunday grabbed your attention.

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What NBC did with equestrian earlier in the Olympics was edit the three-day endurance competition into something you would expect to see on “Roggin’s Heroes.” Mostly, it was humans and horses taking pratfalls. It looked like animal cruelty.

The TripleCast excelled on the major sports as well. Greg Lewis, Peter Vidmar and Julianne McNamara, who did gymnastics, had gold-medal performances.

The track and field coverage also was outstanding. TripleCast producer Tom Feuer, a former Prime Ticket employee, is one of the country’s foremost track and field authorities, and it showed. Bouquets also for world-feed track and field director Rimo Piltz of Finland, who provided the pictures.

Overall, the world feed coverage was better than one would have thought.

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It wasn’t until NBC got hold of it that things deteriorated.


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