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Fourth-Place Medal

NBC spoiled Missy Franklin’s victory moments before it aired

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Moments before airing Missy Franklin's tape-delayed Olympic victory in the 100-meter backstroke, NBC ran a promo for Tuesday's edition of "Today" that said this: "When you're 17 years old and win your first gold medal, there's nobody you'd rather share it with."

The network had yet to show Franklin's win when it ran the "Today" teaser that included this photograph of the teen sensation standing on the medal stand with the gold draped around her neck.

The short clip then cut to a video of Franklin hugging her parents outside London's Aquatics Centre, presumably after the race that she had won seven hours before NBC showed it on the East Coast.

Due to the five-hour time difference between London and the Eastern time zone, NBC is running its entire prime-time program on tape delay. The decision has led to the usual criticism from media and viewers even as the network is posting record ratings through the first two nights of the Games.

[ Related: Franklin inherits the "female Phelps" mantle ]

Spoilers are difficult to avoid. Anyone with an Internet connection or a talkative companion is bound to hear the Olympic news of the day, all of which happens well before NBC goes on the air at 8 p.m. ET. But to hear it from the network itself mere moments before the race? It's irresponsible, hypocritical and insulting. NBC needs to stop believing that 25 million casual viewers gives it a mandate to slap the minority of hardcore ones in the face. There's a dedicated corps of fans who dutifully avoid results throughout the day. The network ruins it enough by tape delaying coverage (which is its right). Don't compound the issue by spoiling it, too.

Those same fans would have also been flummoxed on Saturday when NBC News anchor Brian Williams led his broadcast by reporting the results of the highly anticipated Ryan Lochte-Michael Phelps final in the 400 IM.

"Good evening from London," Williams said that night. "While we try to be sensitive about spoiler alerts for our viewers who like to watch the Olympic Games in prime time here on NBC and let the story play out, the news we begin with here tonight has already rocketed all the way around the world."

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