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Netizens slam Nagano coverage

Television viewers unhappy with CBS's handling of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games are taking to the Net to do something about it.

Television viewers unhappy with CBS's coverage of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Japan are taking to the Net to do something about it: kvetch.

Newsgroups and message boards are rife with protests about the network's all-encompassing focus on American athletes, their tendency to cut away from live event coverage to pretaped features, and commentators' chronic mispronunciation of the name of Nagano, the host city.

In addition to being a forum for complaints, Netizens are using the Web to mobilize a nascent campaign to improve what they believe has been inept television coverage of the Nagano events. These fans are hoping that the instantaneous nature of online communications can help them shape CBS's approach to these Olympics.

A CBS Sports representative said that there is no way for the network to please all of the estimated 132 million Americans watching its coverage of the Olympics. LeslieAnne Wade, director of corporate communications for CBS Sports, also pointed out that the audience for the Olympics is much broader than the typical sports audience.

"When you're doing stuff of this magnitude, not everybody is going to love everything that you do," she added.

One disgruntled fan, Justin Scott, has set up the CBS Dissatisfaction Page, which objects to what he calls the "bastardization of the Olympics" and offers links to Olympic sponsors for easy emailing of complaint letters.

"Instead on focusing on the competition, fairly, for all people, they insist on flooding our living rooms with commercials, fluff, inexperienced commentators, and totally worthless coverage," writes Scott, a UCLA student, on the page. "We can write CBS and its commercial sponsors to register our dissatisfaction and desire for things to change. Whereas paper letters before would arrive after the coverage was over, we can write [via email] and have it read instantaneously."

Other Netizens are taking to message boards, including those on CBS SportsLine, as well as newsgroups such as "rec.sports.olympic" to register their unhappiness with CBS.

"This is the worst Olympic coverage I have ever seen," wrote one annoyed viewer in an open letter to CBS on a SportsLine message board, summing up the feelings of the almost 400 people who posted to message board topics such as "Olympic Pet Peeves," and "Are the Olympics Overcommercialized?"

Those who cannot tolerate Olympic television coverage have found the Web to be a convenient medium to find event information. In fact, an IBM representative said today that the official Nagano Olympics Web Site has had record traffic since the opening ceremonies, logging 122.6 million hits since February 7.

Wade confirmed that the television ratings for the Nagano Olympics are lower than those of the '92 Winter Games in Albertville, France, but said that the dip was also due to the weather conditions, which caused popular events such as skiing to be canceled during the first few days of the Olympics.