Boxing: NBC asked to cease ringside commentary

LONDON Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:14pm EDT

An NBC sign on the General Electric building in New York October 5, 2009. According to news reports Comcast Corp, the top U.S. cable service provider was in talks to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric. REUTERS/Mike Sega

An NBC sign on the General Electric building in New York October 5, 2009. According to news reports Comcast Corp, the top U.S. cable service provider was in talks to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Sega

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LONDON (Reuters) - American broadcaster NBC was told to cease ringside commentary on Friday after amateur boxing's governing body complained to Olympics organizers that their presence was disrupting officials at the arena.

NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp, was the only broadcaster allowed to commentate from the ringside floor and the International Boxing Association (AIBA) said they disturbed officials sitting next to them throughout the competition.

It recommended to the London organizing committee (LOCOG) that NBC's commentary team leave their position. They were offered a space with the other media but decided to leave instead, AIBA said.

"NBC commentators were offered a booth in the media tribune like other broadcasters because they were very disturbing for AIBA officials - even during bouts they were not broadcasting - being located at the edge of the Field of Play," an AIBA spokesman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

"They claimed that since no boxers from the USA were still in the running, they didn't want to stay anyway."

NBC said it was not true to say its commentary team had left for this reason and that it would be addressing the matter with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"That is inaccurate and we will be calling the remaining bouts for the U.S. television audience, as planned," an NBC spokesman said in an emailed statement, referring to AIBA quoting its commentary team as not wanting to stay anyway.

"There are two sides to every story. We'll address the matter with the IOC after the Games conclude," the statement added.

AIBA said NBC cameramen were still recording footage at the arena and that the fights would be commentated on from New York.

COVERAGE CRITICISED

NBC has paid $4.4 billion for the U.S. rights to the next four Olympics through 2020 and has attracted big audiences to tune in for the London Games by tape-delaying marquee events to air in the evening, maximizing viewers and advertising dollars.

NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said last week that the London Games' tape-delayed prime-time ratings had topped the live prime-time ratings for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lazarus said NBC, which at one point stood to lose $200 million on the event, had a small chance of making "a little bit of money" because of the strong ratings performance.

However, he was also forced to give an impassioned defense of the network's coverage on a conference call, conceding that some of the criticism leveled at the network had been "fair".

A small, but vocal contingent of critics have stormed Twitter, Facebook and other social media, decrying the network's delayed broadcasts, technical glitches with online streaming, heavy promotions and even its cast of commentators.

U.S. media have also reported ringside comments from one of NBC's boxing commentators, trainer Teddy Atlas, who was highly critical at the officiating of the London Games.

America's women boxers picked up two medals on Thursday, one a gold, but its men had their worst performance at an Olympic Games, failing to win a medal for the first time.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alison Williams/John O'Brien)

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