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Does It Work To Have Bejiing Events Called from Manhattan?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:00 AM, under ,

Athens, GA (Aug 20, 2008) - Back when he was running for President of the United States, H. Ross Perot felt that the United States did not have to have an ambassador present in every country. His reasoning? That with the current technology of the time, there was no need to have a physical presence in the countries. He felt that a great deal of money could be saved by doing this.

Of course, the year was 1992 and technology has come a long way since then. There is so much that can be done remotely. But where Perot missed the boat was the fact that there are so many intangibles to an on-site presence that have an impact that cannot be replicated remotely.

So in 2008, NBC Sports is presenting an unprecedented 3,600 hours of content across its various platforms. But one thing is different in this Olympic Cycle. NBC Sports is having at least 10 of its on-air broadcast teams broadcasting from 30 Rock in midtown Manhattan. On one sense, this is bringing broadcasting back full circle, to the days when radio announcers like Ronald Reagan would "broadcast" games from the news ticker (often creating their own sound effects). This has led to a great deal of on-line and mainstream media debate as to the merits of this approach.

From a technical standpoint, it is very easy to accomplish this. Instantaneous information is available via the internet and through the use of social networking/collaboration tools such as instant messaging. The announcers are talented enough to make it sound like they are actually on site. But something important is missing: the intangibles of being on site.

During yesterday's Men's Soccer semifinal game between Argentina and Brazil, play-by-play announcer JP Dellacamera gave away the inherent flaw in calling games remotely. He said that they could not say for sure because they were not on-site, but it sounded like the loudest crowd of any of the soccer matches played in the Olympics to date. That's right. He was not immersed in the environment, so he could not bring that energy to the broadcast.

How can the emotion and energy of an event truly be conveyed if the announcers are not on site? How can announcers really sense a sea change of emotion, and momentum, in a stadium if they are not physically there to experience it? Yes, experience it, because people watching on television or listening on the radio want to not only see the action unfold on the screen. They want to have some sense of the environment and emotion conveyed.

H. Ross Perot did not get elected, so he never got a chance to try his experiment. Well NBC Sports has had their chance. Although it is hard to tell a difference in what his happening, sometimes it is just not the same viewing experience.

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