Carrying a torch can be a heavy burden. With the Olympics kicking off two weeks of heated global competition, I'm left asking some obvious questions. Will General Electric
Yes, I'll admit it. Of the 1,200 hours of programming that General Electric will be pumping out through seven of its different television networks, I'll be good for probably just an hour or two. It's not that I lack patriotism. It's not that my social calendar is booked solid through August. It's just that most of the prime-time Olympics coverage will be on tape delay because those snobbish athletes and foreign committee officials aren't up for staging medal-contending contests at 3:00 a.m.
The nerve! Shouldn't all of the members of the synchronized swimming teams be able to set their wake-up calls at precisely 2:47 a.m. for my selfish enjoyment?
Then again, maybe it will be GE's NBC that's in for the rude awakening. Buying into the Olympics through 2012 has the entertainment giant taking on some meaty risks. It found that out the hard way when ratings fell short of promised expectations four years ago. Australia may have been a majestic choice for the Olympics -- and clearly Greece is historically fitting -- but information flows too fast these days for anything short of live athletic events.
If the U.S. men's basketball dream team gets clobbered again by Italy, do you think that the news won't be disseminated widely by the time that NBC and its sponsors paying nearly a million cool ones for a 30-second spot get to recreate the game in your living room? GE may bring good things to life, but that also includes every rival news source that it doesn't own the puppet strings to. With every passing of the torch, more channels appear on your cable or satellite listing and more people discover the awesome leveler of information known as the World Wide Web. If it's not live, it's dead. So if you can see the silver lining -- sorry -- that's just the glow coming off your chest because you settled for second best.
I love Disney's
I'm not alone. News should be new. Sports should be live. Unless I can trick some ignorant buddy into placing a bet on some tape-delayed archery action, I'm out. I can't spend these next two weeks with earmuffs and blinders on until it's time to tune in to NBC. I'm sorry. If a colossal upset takes place or some amazing heroic effort is doled out, I'll either have heard of it earlier -- or I'm watching water polo (just a joke, my neighbor coaches his school's water polo team. I love the sport to no end.)
This doesn't mean that GE doesn't stand to profit from the Olympics. If NBC managed to spin a profit out of the Sydney games four years ago -- and it did -- it will do just fine this time around. Even the viewer's appetite for instant access to information will play into NBC's pocket as it mans the eyeball magnet that NBCOlympics.com will become over the next couple of weeks.
So NBC won't lose money here, but that alone is an inappropriate gauge of success. Just because it takes in more money in ad revenues than it spent on the lavish production doesn't make this a winner move. We need to consider the conglomerate's return on that investment. How much would it have earned if it had stuck to its regular programming schedule? How much does it stand to gain in mindshare for the more obscure networks in its broadcasting family that will play more than a bit part in this athletic showcase?
Remember, this GE exclusivity wasn't granted as a birthright. The company bid on the rights just as Disney, Viacom
A sporting chance
So where does that leave you? With a global viewing audience 4 billion strong, it's obvious that the world will be taking these games far more seriously than I have so far, and that might very well include you.
Go for it. I mean it. TiVo
Enjoy! Shout it from the virtual rooftop of our Olympic Games discussion board! That's what ultimately makes these games great, I guess. We are all entitled to our opinions, and we have the freedom to tune in or out as we see fit. So, what's that? The women's soccer team is already off to a stellar start?
Frankly my dear, I don't give a Hamm.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still isn't sure about what to expect with synchronized swimming. He owns shares in Disney and Viacom but not of any of the other companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.