Not to armchair-produce a massive, multi-million-dollar TV undertaking—or actually to do exactly that, because it’s kind of fun—but broadcasting the Olympics seems like a pretty easy gig. Point the cameras at the sportspeople, slap in some ads while they’re putting chalk on their hands or whatever it is they do, and try not to say anything too dumb. Then you can just kind of coast, presumably, content in the knowledge that a billion international water polo fans are gently pouring money into your pockets with nationalistic, quasi-patriotic glee.
And yet, NBC’s broadcast of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio is the lowest-rated it’s been in several olympiads, lagging behind the 2008 and 2012 broadcasts from China and the U.K. And while some of that could owe to outside factors—who can focus on pole vaulting when that dang Suicide Squad is out there stirring up trouble, huh?—critics have been quick to point to the network’s own handling of the event as the reason for the slump.
People have been complaining about NBC’s approach to Olympic ad-time—i.e., chopping the actual event footage into little minute-size chunks so that McDonald’s has more time to push its latest Krusty Burger promotion or whatever on you—since the opening ceremony on Friday night. But complaints have only continued to pile on since then, especially in regards to the network’s decision to time-delay many of the day’s events, pushing high-profile competitions like gymnastics into the late night. (This, despite the fact that Rio is only one hour off the U.S.’s Eastern time zone.)
There have also been at least a few glaring journalistic flubs, as when broadcaster Dan Hicks credited the coach/husband of Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu as “the man responsible” for her victory in the 400-meter individual relay. (Hicks failed to note that he was quoting Hosszu herself, giving credit to her husband for his contribution to her win.) There’s also the usual complaints about the U.S.-centric world view—missing global human interest stories like the Ethiopian swimmer who drew wild cheers despite coming in half a lap behind the nearest competitor—and the idea, touted by NBC’s chief Olympic marketing officer, that female Olympic fans are more interested in the narrative “journeys” of the athletes, as opposed to actually, you know, liking sports. It’s a pretty dire slate of problems, all told, and one that’s probably going to take more than an enthusiastically shouting Leslie Jones to fix.