Will It Be #NBCFail With USA Swimming Broadcast Coverage?

Column by David Rieder

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, June 18. THE USA Swimming Phillips 66 National Championships will return to television next week, the national governing body announced today. Races will air on NBC and its various sports channels; Universal Sports, the home of the USA Swimming Grand Prix series, will carry the first two nights of action (Tuesday, June 25 and Wednesday, June 26) live at 6pm eastern, while highlights will be broadcast on Saturday, June 29 at 1pm (on NBC) and 11pm (on NBC Sports Network).

Many cable providers do not carry Universal Sports in certain regions, so anyone in these areas interested in watching the action live – or anyone after the first two nights – must watch a webcast on usaswimming.org.

NBC Sports has rarely hesitated to tape-delay swimming in order to better fit it into their broadcast schedule. At last summer's Olympics in London, swimming finals began at 2:30 eastern time, a time when several networks were airing Olympic coverage, but NBC did not show the races until their prime-time broadcast. NBC's failure to carry the Olympics and other sporting events – such as the epic French Open semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic earlier this month – has drawn criticism from sports fans, including the use of the twitter hashtag “#NBCFail.”

NBC should offer more extensive coverage of the upcoming World Championships next month in Barcelona. In both 2009 and 2011, NBC broadcasted midday packages of the events, on the main network, the weekend and on Universal Sports during the weekend. Since the 2009 Championships took place in Rome, NBC could broadcast these races live, but that did not happen in 2011, when finals took place early in the morning in U.S. time in Shanghai, China. NBC could choose to air these races live in 2013, considering that finals in Barcelona should begin right around the network's preferred midday time slot.

However, viewers without Universal Sports on television will struggle to find live video for these races. Universal Sports no longer makes available their coverage online to those that do not receive the network, and USA Swimming will not have rights to this coverage. Live footage from Nationals should prove more accessible than that from Worlds.

Play-by-play man Ted Robinson and reporter Alex Flanagan will join the ever-present Rowdy Gaines at the IU Natatorium to call the action for Nationals. Robinson is best known as the voice of Olympic diving and the French Open of tennis, and he also calls the radio broadcast of games for the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL. Flanagan also works diving during the Olympic Games, and she serves on the sideline crew for NFL Network's Thursday Night Football and NBC's coverage of Notre Dame Football.

Robinson will likely replace Dan Hicks for play-by-play at the World Championships; Hicks has called swimming in the Olympics since 1996, and he could return for the World Championships, as he did for the 2009 edition of the meet in Rome. Andrea Kremer, NBC's reporter for the previous two Olympics, no longer works regularly with NBC.

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