While NBC continues to be official broadcaster in the U.S, there has been a change in Canada -- at least for the next two Olympics. For American viewers living near the border, please note you need to find a new station, CTV, not CBC. Over-the-air CTV, like CBC, will be live in all time zones and offering live events even during daytime.
CTV tackles Vancouver Olympic Games coverage
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO - It’s been more than 15 years since CTV held the broadcast rights for the Winter Olympics, and for those who remember the network’s last foray into the Games, perhaps some skepticism is to be expected.
After all, it was under CTV’s watch in Lillehammer, Norway that the opening ceremonies were tape-delayed instead of live, that an analyst mistakenly cast doubt on the validity of Canada’s goldmedal biathlon race, and that on-air personalities such as Rod Black and Valerie Pringle caught heat for being either too intrusive or too perky.
Still, critics note it was a step up from CTV’s coverage of the ’92 Summer Games in Barcelona, which was “pretty much a mess all around,”as retired sports media columnist Bill Houston recalls.
The shadow cast by CBC’s long-held title as Canada’s Olympic broadcaster proved a difficult one to escape for the private network, says Houston, but that’s not to say things won’t be different when CTV leads a consortium of media companies into the Vancouver Games.
“To be fair to CTV, CBC had had it for a long period of time and suddenly they (had) it and maybe some of the critics such as myself were overly harshly critical of them,” says Houston, a former Globe and Mail columnist who now runs the sports and media blog,“truthandrumours.net.”
“That’s a long time ago and things change so quickly in television. It’s really unfair to even think about what CTV’s going to do this time an think, ‘Well, you know they screwed up 20 years ago so they’ll probably do it again.’ ... In fact, many of the people running CTV now were former CBC people who were involved in CBC’s coverage.”
Chief among them is veteran broadcaster Brian Williams, who spent some 30 years as CBC’s marquee Olympic anchor before leaving in 2006 so he could host the Games when CTV and Rogers secured exclusive broadcast rights.
And for the first time, CTV says fans of even the most obscure Olympic winter sport will get a chance to see their event live via an alliance of 12 media outlets – among them CTV, TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, OLN, APTN, MTV and Much-Music.
“We’ve really made the determination to have the highest possible standards of quality, not just from a high definition standpoint but also from the shooting, the editing and the packaging that we’ve done,” says CTV president Rick Brace, noting the consortium expects to air nearly 5,000 hours of coverage in 22 languages.
“We’ve kind of pulled out all stops to make sure it happens. Sure, we’ve got to make sure that we meet the challenge, we’re determined to do so, but we think it’s absolutely doable.”
So much of the media landscape has changed since CTV last had the Games, with audiences even more demanding than ever, Houston notes.
He commended the consortium’s ambitious plans, but notes that such scale is required programming for today’s viewers and their voracious appetite for ondemand entertainment.
“Everything’s changed, the whole digital world has changed everything,” Houston says. “There would be criticism if they weren’t giving us everything.”
This time around, viewers can expect to see a few technical advances in the way some events are presented. New gadgets include so-called “helmet cams,” designed to grab unique perspectives on ski cross and snowboard cross, and “DartFish” technology, which captures ghost images of select performances in alpine, bobsled, skeleton and luge for comparison.
In hockey, a hydraulic lift system will bring analysts out over the ice before and after the game and during intermissions, making it seem as if they are floating over the arena.