It's not the network's fault; it's just that the Internet is the ultimate spoiler.
This weekend, attendees at London's Olympic events were asked to avoid sending non-urgent text messages and tweets during those events -- because the resulting overload to data networks was compromising the television coverage of those events.
That seems like an apt metaphor for an Olympics that is pitting not just athlete against athlete, but also screen against screen. There are, actually, two versions of the Games this year. There are the events as we see them on TV, highly produced and heavily narrative and ad-filled and time-delayed; and then there are the events as they play out online, through live blogs and live tweets and athletes' Instagrams and full, nearly real-time recaps. These two versions of the Olympics are the same thing only in the sense that, say, quiche and custard are the same: They take the same basic ingredient and, through cooking them differently, create two completely separate products.
It's hard not to read some future-of-television lessons into those Two Olympics. NBC took flak this weekend for its time-shifting policies -- for what TechCrunch writer Billy Gallagher called a "dumb, outdated" strategy and what media critic Jeff Jarvis decried as a business model "built on imprisonment." The network was criticized, basically, for turning an event into a production. Not only did NBC carve up the Games' Opening Ceremonies into almost comedically short, ad-friendly bits, but it also omitted Danny Boyle's tribute to the victims of London's 7/7 terrorist attack -- under the logic that the tribute "wasn't tailored to a U.S. audience." And while the network is complementing its edited television coverage with relatively raw and real-time streaming, both online and through apps, that coverage is available only to those who are cable subscribers. (And its reliability, as swim fans discovered on Saturday, has been choppy.)