The reason you couldn't watch much of the Paralympics live on NBC's many channels is that you didn't really want to. NBC decided to forego any live coverage of the Paralympics and only show four hour-long highlight specials on its hard-to-find NBC Sports network, and according to the network's Olympics chief, after you spent so much time watching the Olympics, that's all you wanted. "People really do completely alter their lifestyle. ... They don't go to the laundry, don't go to the movies. Reassembling that audience afterwards is difficult. And advertisers also are fatigued," Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, told reporters in London on Friday.
It's a bit of front-handed excuse: the network did too good a job of inundating audiences (and milking advertisers for money) with Olympics coverage (the most-watched television event in history) that they had a international sports-watching hangover. As The Guardian's Jason Deans and The Hollywood Reporter's Georg Szalai reported earlier this month that the U.K.'s Channel 4 covered the Paralympics continuously and enjoyed strong ratings. But Szalai mentioned that the network would lose some money on the Paralympics, so it may be advertising fatigue is a bigger problem than viewer fatigue.
NBC's coverage decisions have been criticized by the International Paralympics Committee, the U.S. Paralympic chef de mission Aimee Mullins, and disability organizations. "I don't know what the rationale was behind the decision, but we have a way to go. That disconnect between the U.S. being a world leader in disability issues and the broadcast coverage in real time of the Games is disappointing," Mullins told The Guardian last month. Zenkel emphasized that the Paralympics are an "an event whose positioning two to three weeks after the Olympics is difficult."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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