Middle-of-the-night Olympics coverage NBC's call, not AFN's
American Forces Network viewers in Europe are guaranteed more than 400 hours of Winter Olympics coverage from Turin, Italy. But if they wanted to watch Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White throw double-1080s on the halfpipe Sunday, they had to stay up until 3 a.m. to see it.
To military personnel and families, that might seem as nonsensical and unclear as a curling match.
Even with Turin only a few hours away from Italian and German bases, viewers must often wait until hours after the events finish before they’re available on TV. AFN officials said the problem comes from when they actually receive the NBC broadcast of the games.
AFN’s chief of affiliate relations, Larry Sichter, said Monday that officials air the Olympic coverage as soon as it’s made available. In some cases that means events are shown live, usually on NBC affiliates like MSNBC and USA Network, but for many premiere events NBC holds off their broadcasts for a prime-time debut back in the States.
“That’s the dilemma: You’re living in Germany and the event is going on, but all you can see is delayed coverage,” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. The NBC feed is our only choice.”
Federal rules prohibit AFN from carrying foreign broadcasts of the events, Sichter said, and NBC does not provide a live feed for those premiere events.
So on Tuesday, AFN viewers can watch men’s curling live at 9 a.m. local, which is being broadcast at 3 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast.
And viewers also will get to see the Italian women’s hockey team battle the Russian squad live at 3 p.m. Tuesday, since it’s being shown live in America at 9 a.m.
But even though the final of the men’s combined downhill race will take place at 5 p.m. in Italy, those skiing highlights won’t be shown on AFN-Europe until 2 a.m., simultaneous with the tape-delayed prime time 8 p.m. broadcast in the United States.
AFN officials said they are doing their best to provide as much Olympic coverage as possible, even if it isn’t all timely.
Air Force Capt. Jeff Clark, an AFN-Europe spokesman, said AFN has Olympic coverage on three channels: Sports, Xtra and Prime Atlantic. Clark said AFN Sports is the best place for live telecasts, but viewers will receive a blend of tape-delay and live events on all three.
And Sichter said officials are repeating broadcasts of those early-morning sports in better time slots the following day.
In some cases, more than 30 hours may have passed between the competition’s completion and those highlights, but Sichter said the goal is to make sure they are available at a more convenient time for fans.
For a complete list of AFN’s Olympic coverage, go to: http://myafn.dodmedia.osd.mil/tv/sports/schedule.asp.
If viewers want to see events live, local cable or satellite networks may be the best bet. Many local cable stations carry EuroSport, which is showing events in real time. So is Sky Sports, a popular satellite TV service, according to their Web site.
Reporter Leo Shane III contributed to this story.