What Olympic TV life is like across the border: An American watches CBC’s coverage, a Canadian watches NBC’s

What Olympic TV life is like across the border: An American watches CBC’s coverage, a Canadian watches NBC’s

Interviewing ESPN and other sports media executives was not my childhood dream. (Godspeed to any young sports media savant who does have this dream.) No, when I was younger I set a goal of covering at least one Olympic Games as a writer. Watching athletes from across the globe compete in an exotic setting had me transfixed from a young age. I gobbled up the stories from Sports Illustrated’s Olympic writers as if they were religious scripts. Those stories were a huge part of the reason I wanted to work there. 

Eventually, I exceeded my goal and then some, and one of the unexpected benefits of covering the Olympics in a foreign country was the opportunity to view the work of the host broadcaster. In some of those cases — Beijing, Sochi, Turin and Athens — I would return to my hotel room after a long day of work for SI and observe the production of the coverage, the emotion of the broadcasters, all while understanding very little of what was actually said in Mandarin, Russian, Italian and Greek. 

My London Olympics experience included the BBC, and Vancouver provided me with CTV, then the Canadian broadcaster of the Olympics. By then I had been writing about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics and it was a revelation for a media nerd to see first-hand the contrast between the U.S. coverage and elsewhere.

I currently live in Toronto, which means I am able to watch the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the current Olympics broadcaster in Canada, as well as NBC’s coverage (via affiliates in Buffalo and Seattle). CBC has the rights to the Olympics through the 2024 Summer Games and while terms of its deal with the International Olympic Committee have not been disclosed, let’s confidently say it’s a ton less than the $12 billion NBCUniversal paid for the rights to televise 10 Olympic Games through 2032. That is the main reason why the presentation of the Games in Canada is so different.

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