A U.S. TV network plans its Olympic coverage

A new network, XBC, has just been granted exclusive rights to broadcast the 2016 Olympics in the United States. In a conference room in XBC headquarters, the planning committee, chaired by Cassidy, takes its first meeting.

Cassidy: Okay, Team XBC! Let the games begin! [excited laughter] Now, the Olympics is a world event, so, coverage-wise, our most important goal is –

D.J.: To keep the focus on the American athletes.

Allison: For sure, Deej. That’s traditional. But – and I’m going out on a limb here – could we maybe feature just a few foreigners? I have a niece who might qualify for the Swedish team.

Hunter: What’s her event? Because there’s some Olympic sports that are super boring.

D.J.: And don’t have very many Americans competing.

Hunter: I mean, archery? Trampolining? Canoe slalom? C’mon!

Cassidy: Okay, “maybe feature a few foreigners.” I’ve got that. Thanks, Allison.

Rodrigo: Will we be showing the Olympics live?

Cassidy: Good question, Rod. Has everyone met Rod? He’s new to XBC, and to the U.S. too. Rod hails from Paraguay.

Rodrigo: Uruguay.

Cassidy: Really? There’s another “-guay” country down there? Have you got an Olympic team? [Rodrigo nods] Well, to answer your question, Rodster, we’re live-streaming the events on our website –

Minh: Good luck getting that to work.

Hunter: But the Opening Ceremony will be tape-delayed.

Rodrigo: Of course. So our viewers will be able to watch in comfort when they arrive home from work.

Cassidy: No, so we can jack up the prices for the commercials. Now, for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, of course we’ll cut anything we think won’t appeal to Americans, so I need some ideas about what to show instead.

Rodrigo: Ah, now – venturing out on that limb with Allison – why don’t we show the ceremonies in full, as their designers intended? That way Americans can learn things about the rest of the world.

D.J.: Which they need why, exactly?

Allison: Do our corporate sponsors want Americans to learn about the rest of the world?

Cassidy: Good point, Allison.

Minh: How about this? We can pre-tape interviews with some of the top American athletes and splice them into the ceremonies when things look like they’ll get boring for Americans.

Cassidy: Good idea, Minh. That way we keep the focus on Americans.

Rodrigo: How much of the Opening Ceremony are we going to show, exactly?

Cassidy: It’ll depend on how boring it gets for Americans. NBC cut at least half an hour of London’s thing.

D.J.: Like that lame “tribute to the fallen.” Did you read about that? It was all about dead people. What a downer.

Rodrigo: And it’s not as if Americans have ever lost a loved one or died in a terrorist bombing.

D.J.: Right. I mean, wrong! I mean  …

[Several seconds of uncomfortable silence]

Hunter: And all those dumb events with horses. Shouldn’t the horses get the medals? Because the riders just, like, sit there.

Cassidy: Let’s talk about how to choose the commentators. Minh, what’s your –

Rodrigo: Cassidy? Allow me? Because I think I’m getting the hang of this. The commentators shouldn’t sound too knowledgeable; we don’t want the American audience to think we’re talking down to them. That moment in the 2012 games when Meredith Vieira said “We hadn’t heard of Tim Berners-Lee,” will be hard to top, but they should try. And they should be garrulous to a fault, ready and willing to cover up with a lot of chat the times when, unavoidably, we have to show things that might be boring for Americans. Unless, even better, we can cut to a commercial.

D.J.: [after an awestruck silence] Dude, you hit that one out of the freaking park.

Rodrigo: Inspired by your example, team.

Cassidy: Okay! Time’s up. Here’s what I’ve got: maybe feature a few foreigners, lots of U.S. athlete interviews, cut the ceremonies by at least half an hour, and get talkative commentators who don’t know too much. Great meeting, guys. [shoulder-punches Rodrigo] And a solid contribution from the new guy.

[They push their chairs back and get to their feet]

Hunter: And team handball! I mean, WTF?

Allison: Is that really an Olympic thing?

D.J.: Yes, but there aren’t any Americans competing.

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