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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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Marianne Paskowski



Yet Another Olympian Nightmare for NBC

May 7, 2008 12:21 PM

As if things weren’t bad enough for NBC, the broadcast net that has the broadcast rights to the Beijing Summer Olympics starting Aug. 8, now China is experiencing an outbreak of a potentially fatal hand, foot and mouth virus.

In recent weeks Chinese officials reported 15,799 cases of the virus, which has killed 28 children so far. I really wonder why the International Olympics Committee chose this site.

The IOC had to know early on. After all, this hand, foot and mouth virus is nothing new. Last year there were 80,000 reported cases of the disease that resulted in 17 deaths in China.

So what’s next? First there was the bad air issue that led several athletes to say they would sit out the competition. The unrest in Tibet continues. The Olympic torch ceremonies were met with protest around the world.

A plague of locusts next? This blogger would not be surprised.

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Comments (24)

Brandwatch:

While the problems in and with China will be unfortunate for those attending the Olympics, it could boost viewership for NBC. Everyone will want to see how the Chinese handle things, in addition to watching the fine athletes in superb competition.

Marianne :

Hi Brandwatch,

Love your dark take, like watching an accident on the other side of the road, and praying, thankfully, that you're not in it.

Thanks for your post, and a very pragmatic look at life.

Best,
Marianne

Brandwatch:

Well since I'm going to the Olympics there is no other way to look at the situation from my vantage point.

I am all for the spirit of the Olympics.

I was fortunate to be part of CBS's team that covered the Winter Olympics in Albertville.

Having said that, the entire mess that is the Olympics this year in China, I believe, should be scrapped.

What the Chinese government has done to it's own people to make way for it should be grounds for cancellation.

Everywhere you look across the political, physical, economical and spiritual horizon, the Chinese leaders have methodically plowed under any opposition to their vision. It should be a lesson to the rest of the world.

Not going should be a lesson to the Chinese leaders.
Peter Bright

Marianne :

Brandwatch,
Have a good trip, we will all want to hear about your experiences. Don't jaywalk, you might get arrested.

Marianne

DGLEFFORGE:

I SAY GOOD ANYTHING THAT COULD GO WRONG FOR NBC I HOPE IT DOES, I LIVE IN A SUB OF DETROIT, AND GET MUCH BETTER COVERAGE FROM OUR CANADIAN STATIONS THEN NBC EVER DID!! SO HA HA!! LOL TO NBC HOPE NO ONE WATCHES!! DAVE DETROIT!!

Marianne :

Peter,
The show will go on, too late to cancel. Too many people have so much skin in the games.

Not hearing about any nations boycotting the games like the U.S. if I'm correct boycotted the Olympics in Russia way back when.

Thanks for your post,
Marianne

Marianne, yes, due to the Carter Administration's US-Soviet Relations at the time, NBC did not cover the Moscow '80 Summer Olympics.

Marianne :

Peter,
God bless Jimmy Carter, Bush probably doesn't even know what's going on in China.

Marianne

Jason:

I don't think its Bush's fault that the Chinese have a wretched government that suppresses its people, but I'm pretty sure he did say something about the fact that China needs to fix this Tibetan situation. The sad part is that none of these presidential candidates have the balls to pull us out of an Olympics either. As for NBC, good riddance. Those dopes, especially Silverman and Zucker deserve more low rated programming. Their fall schedule is a disaster waiting to happen. Chalk up another fourth place season.

Marianne :

Hi Jason,
What really surprises me, so far, is that none of the advertisers walked away yet.

They are greedy, the want to have their brands exposed to the fastest growing market and that's that.

However, on the other hand, I haven't heard a peep about the 25 percent of inventory still unsold.

Have you?

Thanks for your post,
Marianne

Like every other media focus, the Olympic topic will enhance as we get closer to the Opening Ceremonies.

As to what advertisers jump on or off the band wagon will depend on circumstances that are yet to come to the fore.

We have not seen the worst of it yet. The internet should be monitored because that is how the news will come to the outside world of the next attempts of suppression.

The days of control under Mao and Chou En Lai are gone.

This is nothing but a PR piece for Bejing and those autocrats are determined to control the impressions made, no matter who, or what they have to silence to have it their way.

It is not so much as to whether or not the Olympics will occur, the bigger question is, should the US teams stay and should NBC broadcast "the show".
Peter Bright

Marianne :

Peter,

I think the moral thing to do is for the US teams to pull out and for NBC not to broadcast the event.

However, NBC's parent company is GE. China is GE's biggest customer for its other non-entertainment related businesses.

GE is the third largest corporation in the world. Imagine its lobbying clout.

This is such an important discussion that is not taking place, but instead on the Internet as you write.

Thanks for the lively discussion,
Marianne

We've been buying everything under the Sun there since Nixon's Ping Pong Diplomacy, 1970-71.

Now they have most of our money and are commanding for what they want.

First our money, now our technology, while they have added demand for oil sending the price per barrel beyond our populations ability to pay.

We need to determine a responsible balance for America in the 21st Century of commerce.

Our biggest problem is the short sighted american corporations who will sell out everything leaving us in ten years with no plants to manufacture products, inferior products from afar and a bankrupt country fighting to survive from a down position.

Return on Investment used to mean a dedicated partnership between investor and enterprise. Now the Greed Factor has created a whole society who think they should get ten back for every one put in by end of trading today.

The Olympics have become veneer over a whole host of political, social and economic agendas on the international scene.

This will be an interesting Summer.
Peter Bright

Marianne :

Oh Peter,

Don't get me started about the greed of the stock market. Ever since last summer when the SEC got rid of the uptick rule that said you couldn't sell short, without certain rules regarding future investments, the average investor got screwed big time.

GE I hear, was once a great stock that blows, now trading in the $32 range. It sucks people in with a rather OK dividend, that might be paid or not.

But back to the Olympics' advertisers, McDonald's (MCD) in particular. More than half of that junk food is now sold overseas. It's another example of a crummy stock that suckers in investors with dividends.

It's depressing for me to think the the United States now has the status of an emerging nation. God, oil hit over $124 a barrel today. Where I live we pay #3.79 a gallon for gasoline. People in Kuwait pay 88 cents a gallon.


Marianne

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne,

Sorry, I feel no sympathy for NBC, except for the impact Olympic coverage hassles have on my GE stock. I do feel bad for the athletes themselves, people who train their hearts our to compete in that brief four-year window they have when they're at their prime. To avoid jeopardizing their health, it would be wise for them to avoid China, it seems.

But NBC executives, who should have anticipated plenty of risk in return for the premium ad fees they receive for programming from exotic China, simply face the results of a business decision. Anyone with eyes at least partly open can see that in a developing nation run by autocrats, plenty of weird shortcomings lie beneath the thin patina of a sophisticated Chinese economy.

Jeff

Marianne :

Jeff,

About your GE stock, it's crumbling for a lot of reasons, mostly GE's lending arm that got nailed in Q1.

Now about the Olympics, GE should sell NBC, it doesn't know how to run a media company. The net remains in fourth place. Pathetic.

Now about the so called sophisticated China economy. There is nothing sophisticated about it at all. The country does not require publicly traded Chinese companies to report quarterly, although many do like Baidu, the China equivalent of Google. But the Chinese government shuts them down when they see something they don't like.

I believe the investments in Chinese companies, according to something I heard on CNBC today, is actually down 50 percent.

Oh well, I have no skin in that game.

Thanks for your thoughtful post,

Marianne

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD:

Dear Ms. Paskowski,

Once again, rigorous technical analyses will clarify your "what's next?" inquiry. A plague of locusts is highly unlikely in Beijing this summer, according to a lagged logit interpretation of the Komodo University "Bottled Bug" model developed to predict catastrophic insect infestations and athlete's foot outbreaks. There's the real problem: the potential that unusually hot summer weather will cause an intolerable stench to arise with logarithmic acceleration from all those smelly athletic sweat socks concentrated in Beijing. Our simulations suggest that this year would not be a good one for introducing smell-o-vision.

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, Ph.D.

Marianne :

Oh Doc,

OK, maybe not locusts, but maybe cicadia, I don't know how to spell that, my knowledge of biology is so lacking.But they come back every 17 years.

But let's talk about something very real that you brought up. It will be hotter than Hades in China when the Olympics occur. Add on the bad air quality, and as you suggest their could be some locker room issues.

As usual, when you post, I'm not quite sure what to say, but I'm trying my best to keep up with you.

Thanks, I think, for your post,

Marianne

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

You're going to keep getting more lead-painted toys, poisonous dog food and human food, tainted this and adulterated that from China, a country run by Commies who cannot run a modern or economy if they tried. But they don't even try, afraid as they are that more citizens will, like Tibetans, recognize the hypocrisy. The Soviet Union collapsed; Cuba is close to it. And the wing-nuts on the right had their 1939 Berlin Olympics, an intended propaganda coup that blew up in Hitler's face. The only way we'll enjoy this Olympics is if we have a strong taste for schadenfreude.

Cruisn not Bruisin

Marianne :

Cruiser,

Shame on you, you forgot Heparin, a blood thinner used here in the good USA that has been tainted with a Chinese component.

Why do I know this? I had a surgery back in November and totally freaked when I learned Heparin was in whatever else was in my IV. I pulled the IV out the minute I heard the word Heparin. I am alive, obviously.

Now about Cuba. Not quite a BRIC nations trade (Brazil, Russia, India and China). At least the Cubans now have mobile phones post Castro.

I digress. I just hate the Olympics being held in China, period.

Thanks for your post,
Marianne

Fellow writers....nice to know there are others standing around Old Glory with their eyes on the 360 degree horizon and their ears to the ground.
Peter Bright

joe:

Hey guys,
What about all the athletes who have been training since they were 2 years old? The sponsors aren't leaving because THIS is who they are supporting. It's about the athletes, not China.
Marianne: GE has owned NBC since the 80's. GE sure knew how to run a media company when they were dominating the ratings with Friends and Seinfeld. The TV business is very cylcyle. In a couple of years, NBC will be out of last place and somone else will be stuggling. GE had a bad Q1, but you know what? NBCU was a bright spot for it. It was GE finance (or something) that stuggled.
Know your facts first.

Marianne :

Joe,
The Olympics are a great venue for advertisers. It's a little different this time, they want new customers in China.

I did earlier mention that GE finance dragged down Q1. Part of the problem, now, is GE chieftain Immalt and NBCU head Zucker.

The earlier successes you pointed to were under the watch of different executives, Jack Welsh, etal.

Anyhow,thanks for your post.

MP

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