“We think it’s important to give context to the show,” Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Sports Group, said earlier this month. “These Opening Ceremonies will be a celebration of Brazilian culture, of Rio, of the pageantry, of the excitement, of the flair this beautiful nation has. We think it’s important that we are able to put that in context for the viewer so that it’s not just a flash of color.”
Viewers in the Mountain time zone will have a two-hour delay, and viewers in the Pacific time zone will have a four-hour delay. The network plans to delay the broadcasts on its streaming service, too, so that won’t be a workaround. And don’t expect the practice to change in future Games. NBC’s delayed broadcast is a tradition it has maintained for 20 years largely because it believes its audience, which is mostly female, watches sports differently from men.
“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey,” John Miller, NBC’s Olympics chief marketing officer, told reporters recently. “It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.”
At least there is a limit to the power that NBC, which paid a fortune for broadcast rights to the Games, wields over the content: Olympic officials turned down the network’s request to change the order of the Parade of Nations on Friday night so that U.S. athletes would enter Maracana Stadium at a more ratings-friendly time.
Teams enter in alphabetical order, which would have placed the 555 athletes of the U.S. near the back of the pack. But the host team’s language is used, and the U.S. delegation will enter midway through the parade as Estados Unidos.