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NBC Gold at IAAF World Championships: Good but Fractional Product

Having forked over the cash to watch NBC Gold’s ET&F coverage, I am generally pleased by the product: lots of unedited live feeds without the annoying NBC commentators! Most of what I watch is completely free of commentary. While this is less than optimum in the ideal case (Chris Fowler and Chris Evert doing an Australian Open match is a fine example of “ideal”), it is preferable to watching the NBC/NBCSN broadcast events. I am happier figuring out what is happening on my own, and probably more capable of doing so. The video feeds are wonderful. There is a very standard format of live video, followed by a quick replay of every field event attempt. Salient details (e.g., horizontal jump takeoff point relative to the board and plasticine strip) are edited in for each effort. One hears the ambient crowd noise, which is a pleasure as the London crowd is clearly enjoying the events.

An obvious problem with the NBC Gold feeds is that preliminary field event rounds, that typically include A and B qualification groups, are not shown in their entirety. This affects events that have simultaneous activity (for example, Group A and B Triple Jump trials, going on within parallel runways). Typically, only the A group is shown in the live feed, or in the replays. As far as I can see, this limitation has affected the High Jump, Pole Vault, Long Jump, and Triple Jump events. Eight event groups, including both men and women, that include some of the very big stars of the sport.  Events with serial qualifying rounds (throws and running events) are shown in their entirety.

Pretty obviously, the event organizers, or the core broadcasting service, cut corners on content generation. Duplicating video hardware to show both A and B groups would not have been very hard.

NBC Customer Support did respond to a request for clarification, with a vague statement that nearly entirely misses the question of “where are the B groups?”:

NBC E-Mail:

“Replays are available typically within an hour after the live stream is completed. There is some coverage that takes place after the race that is also included in the live stream which may delay the timing a little.”

Unfortunately, this gives no useful information. Follow-up e-mails for clarification went unanswered.

Missing these small details is the sort of thing that is indicative of a sport (ET&F) that is not quite sure about how to deal with TV coverage. It would be easy to provide complete coverage, but in order to do so, the stakeholders would have to be more aware of the details of their TV product. Sadly, I suspect that they are more interested in their Twitter feeds!

It is too bad if you are a fan of Sam Kendricks (who wouldn’t be!!!), Ekaterini Stefanidi, Jeff Henderson, Caterine Ibarguen, or Kamila Licwinko. You won’t see their qualification (or any of their attempts if they fail to qualify) in the sport’s biggest event in 2017. All of them were Group B athletes.

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