There’s a history of putting the Olympics on tape delay almost as long as the games themselves. NBC has done so for as long as anyone can remember, going as far as to tape delay the entirety of the 2000 Olympics except for the Men’s Gold Medal basketball game. Perhaps the most recognizable moment in U.S. Olympic history, the Miracle on Ice, was televised on a tape delay.
When the games are held in a far-away timezone, using tape delay makes sense. It helps ratings and allows viewers to see events they would otherwise be asleep for. But Rio de Janeiro is not in a far-away timezone, it’s only an hour ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.
Because of this, viewers will go into NBC’s primetime coverage knowing the results, defeating the purpose of tape delaying the events in the first place. Many who follow journalists that live-tweet events simply won’t feel a need to watch. It’s somewhat patronizing to those viewers as well–at best NBC is saying that it doesn’t care about them, at worst, it’s saying that viewers are too dumb to realize they can see events live online or follow along on Twitter.
This even includes the Opening Ceremony. While young people see the ceremony unfold on Twitter, local NBC affiliates will be showing the news. Those people aren’t going to watch the ceremony on tape delay because they’ll already know what has happened. And that’s not to say that NBC won’t see great ratings for the Opening Ceremony or for the Olympics–they will. But that doesn’t mean they won’t lose viewers because of an insistence on using an unnecessary practice.