By Doug Russell Special to Published Aug 01, 2012 at 3:00 PM

I think NBC is in a tough spot.

But I also think they are missing a golden opportunity – pun intended.

Broadcasting the Olympics is a thankless task. While American audiences demand for drama has never been higher, so have the rights fees gathered by the International Olympic Committee.

NBC paid a whopping $1.18 billion for the rights to televise the 2012 Summer Olympics across all of their platforms. Unfortunately, because London is six hours ahead of Milwaukee, England's prime time is our lunch time. And for as much as we would like to believe that the world revolves around the United States, that is simply not the case.

Tuesday evening in London, the US Women's Gymnastics team, dubbed the "Fab Five" captured gold in the overall team competition. While this singular marquee event was taking place, men's water polo was being shown on NBC to countless dozens across the country.

As Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt and Caitlin Leverenz were all swimming for gold; men's beach volleyball was offered up on broadcast tape delay.

Of course we all know NBC's rationale. The marquee events, particularly women's gymnastics and swimming, have the highest number of viewers and the network wants to save their broadcasting of them for when they will get the most people watching. It is a simple rationale and one that for many years made sense.

But that rationale doesn't work anymore in 2012.

Case in point, the NBC Nightly News still leads their broadcast with news – results included – from that day's events, ostensibly doing their jobs as journalists while ignoring their programming mission of allowing their audience to experience the highs and lows of athletic competition in all of its tape-delayed glory.

Years ago, before the social media revolution, it was not that difficult to avoid news reports of what happened earlier that day a world away. If you wanted to not hear about Olympics results, all you had to do was keep your radio off for a few minutes on your drive home from work.

That's not the case today.

Twitter and Facebook are live, immediate new sources, beaming instant images and even video as events happen. In fact, NBC capitalized on the online revolution, making live free streams of all sports, as they happened, available to anyone who was a cable television subscriber.

Wait. What?

In order to watch marquee events live, requires users to enter their cable provider information, which makes about as much sense as needing to show your driver's license to buy bread. Nevertheless, NBC's boast about showing every sport on at least one of their multiple platforms is true.

But it's unnecessarily maddening.

The fact of the matter is that while there will be at least some audience for every sport simply because it is the Olympics, NBC would be wise to relegate ping-pong, badminton, water polo, fencing, et al, to the web cast while actually broadcasting swimming and gymnastics as they happen. Then, in prime-time, the network should re-broadcast the same sports in their entirety for those that could not get away from work to watch them live.

NBC would do well by its viewers and advertisers by giving us the best of both worlds. Certainly there would be far more eyeballs watching live swimming and gymnastics than the typical midday fare of rowing and archery. After all, the drama of live sports is impossible to replicate.

"But wouldn't that hurt NBC's prime time numbers?"

Not one bit. And here is why.

Those that want to see these events live (and are able to) will simply do so. Likewise, those that cannot watch live (and then go to the effort to avoid news coverage) can see the events, as one television executive once put it, "plausibly live."

In a lot of ways, NBC is in a no-win situation. Because of the enormity of the Summer Games and their mammoth financial stake in it, they have to do what they think is in their best interest. But in its haste to protect their prime-time product for the casual viewer, NBC is angering sports fans who have become accustomed to watching live sports no matter the hour.

Every four years soccer fans plan large chunks of their summer around the World Cup, with weekday afternoon gatherings spilling out onto the patios of places like Nomad World Pub and The Highbury. Likewise, every March, office productivity grinds to a screeching halt as the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament make any pub with ample seating pointed toward a bank of plasma screens with four different games on the place to be.

Why is that so difficult of a concept when the Olympics come around?

The easy answer is because there is a sharp difference between sports fans and Olympics fans.

Sports fans demand, well, sports. Live no matter what a clock may read. We watch our football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, and anything else they can televise as it happens. We make events out of the NFL Draft; we know what the terms "Braketologist" and "nickel defense" mean. We can succinctly explain the infield fly rule in less than 10 seconds. We are sports fans.

Olympics fans, conversely, do not have such passion for sports. Often times Olympics fans are soccer moms that watch women's gymnastics and hearken back to their own youth and the tumbling lessons they used to take after school. Olympics fans don't plan their autumn weekends around the Packers and Badgers bye weeks. Olympics fans only have that passion for one or two days every four years.

Olympics fans think it is great that Ryan Seacrest is part of the broadcast.

Sports fans may love watching the Olympics, but they want to watch the games unfold without any delay of any kind. Olympics fans read books at Brewers games and have never heard of most of the players in the starting lineup.

But just as NBC is stuck straddling the delicate line of how to keep everyone happy, the answer is staring them right in the face – not despite technology, but rather because of it.

In today's instant information age, anyone who wants to avoid Olympic results must actively ensconce themselves in oblivion. No Facebook, Twitter or any other social media of any kind; no text message news alerts; no live radio in the car on the way home from work; and for goodness sakes, no NBC Nightly News.

That's quite an effort. However, these are the times in which we live in. But as long as that effort also includes not watching television in the early afternoon anyway, NBC would do well to simply air the events twice; once live for sports fans and then in prime time for Olympic fans.

NBC has been roundly criticized for the decisions they have made, when in fact; this has been their modus operandi for decades.

But just because something worked well in 1992 doesn't mean that it still does today.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.