There is something to knowing that you are joining together with millions of others who are watching the same thing that you are. We have so many options for entertainment – endless programming which sends us in different directions according to our time and interests that we seldom have a reason to come together as a viewing audience.
Fresh off the high from the Super Bowl with its spectacular draw and hungry for our virtual community we have been given the gift of the Olympics. I love the Olympics – the athleticism, the victory, the pain and the determination. It appeals to our competitive nature and encourages us to strive for excellence (and sometimes insanity). Additionally it succeeds in bringing people from different countries and cultures together to share the human experience.
We especially enjoy the winter games at our house, snowboarding, downhill skiing, bobsled, and speed skating are a few favorites. Sunday night our family partook in this world event by huddling around the TV for an evening of Olympic fun. As the evening began we were cheering for the USA. We had successfully cheered Hannah Kearney of the US through the women’s moguls the night before. Kearney sailed to the platform with gold upsetting, Jennifer Heil, one of Canada’s best hopes for gold in these games. However this evening we succumbed to the story of the underdog. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
In keeping with the community spirit we were drawn into the hometown fever, spreading in Vancouver, via our television. Canada, suffering a gold-medal drought at home, was primed for gold in the Men’s Moguls when a young 22-year-old from Quebec overtook defending champion Dale Begg-Smith of Austrailia. Still there was one who threatened to spoil Canada’s golden hopes, France’s Guilbaut Colas. We held our breath, and time really did seem to stand still as the Frenchman prepared to make his run, but it was just the magic of television I’m sure.
Whether it was a commercial, an interview, or a cutaway to another event, it seemed like forever, and our anticipation grew. But once Colas began his run he was done, for it takes only 30 seconds, if you’re slow, to complete the knee-jolting course complete with two aerial tricks – plenty of room for error and genius alike. Although Colas was fast and clean his run was not big enough to squash the dreams of Canada’s Alexandre Bilodeau who carried gold to his people ending Canada’s dry spell – satisfying a nation and a world’s collective need for a happy ending.
While the athleticism is what brings me to the games I appreciate the back story and enjoy the spirit of community. But is this community imagined? How many are actually watching the Olympics and by what medium?
Through Saturday 97 million people have watched the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games on the networks of NBCU; nine million more than watched the first two days of the Torino Games in 2006 (88 million) [which featured figure skating and downhill skiing on the first day of competition.]
NBC’s Olympics website, NBCOlympics.com, has averaged 4.5 million unique users for the Vancouver Games [already], 350 percent higher than the first two [days] of the last Winter Games in Torino in 2006 (1.02 million).
Staci D. Kramer of Paidcontent.org notes:
NBC has a fan page on Facebook. A team is working with Twitter to enhance delivery of tweets to NBCOlympics.com and to push out @NBCOlympics tweets in real time.
Perkins Miller, SVP of digital media for NBC Sports said:
We feel like we’ve made a real connection to the broader breadth of where people are talking or living their lives socially with the content. Having a single destination to bring them back here really is very simple and easy for users to know where to go, rather than seeing a snippet here or there, which doesn’t tell the full story.
Because the Olympics is a 17-day event with competition taking place round the clock catching all the games can be difficult, therefore these new options are a welcome addition for the sports enthusiast. Still I am a bit nostalgic for a simpler time when we all shared or at least seemed to share a common experience at a single moment in time.
According to a recent Zogby poll, only 29 percent of Americans in the 18-29-year-old demographic still prefer to watch TV live. The rest would rather use a DVR or watch on a DVD or website. I must say this is a wonderful alternate reality.
It seems the live television audience is a dying breed while the internet audience is growing at a staggering rate. I suppose it should be enough that we are connecting on Facebook, blogs and other burgeoning sites – at least we are connecting – right?
So here I sit writing while watching NBC’s television broadcast of the medal ceremony for Men’s Moguls. I am listening to Oh Canada being sung by Alexandre Bilodeau’s countrymen. I’m grinning ear to ear and getting misty-eyed wondering who else is joining me in watching this spectacle. I am minimally comforted by the fact that this scene will be replayed over and over via the internet. So, no worries, if you missed it the first time or if you miss any event for that matter, you can stream it later on your phone or computer and then maybe we can catch up and chat all about it here or on Facebook.