ABC/ESPN does not cover figure skating anymore; the ISU and U.S. Figure Skating sold those rights to NBC several years ago. The commentary has taken a dive (they are much louder, more jingoistic, and just plain lousy). They have the equivalent of Al Trautwig's horrid gymnastics commentary now mucking up figure skating, too. The coverage has been put on Universal Sports, as I mentioned, rather than running on the broadcast station. When ABC/ESPN owned the rights, they even showed the early flights (i.e. lesser skaters) and short programs on ESPN, then did the main coverage on ABC. It was available to anyone who had even the most basic cable packages. So, in short, I understand the IOC made an economic decision. That does not mean that NBC's coverage of the games is anything I want to watch or that I like the fact that NBC will be fucking this up for the next 4 Olympiads. They are not the same issue.
Okay, I get all that, but you're talking about 1 sport. I'm not a figure skating fan, so I couldn't compare NBC to ABC/ESPN. So when you say "ABC/ESPN have still done a good job with Olympic sports," what other sports are you referring to? Most of what I see on ESPN is football, basketball, and baseball, and not much else. Even if ESPN had gotten the Olympics, they still probably would have put a lot of those competitions on espn3.com. At least NBC has a television channel (even if not everyone gets it) that is dedicated solely to Olympic sports and now that they're partnered with Versus, that can only help as well.
Just as you hate the thought of NBC continuing to do the Olympics, that's how I felt about the possibility of ESPN getting it. I cringed at the thought they might actually be serious about getting the Olympics which is why I laughed a little bit when they put in such a pathetically low bid. ESPN used to pride themselves on being the number 1 destination for sports news and highlights. To me, they've become a joke and the last thing I wanted was for them to come in and do the same thing to the Olympics. Couldn't be happier that they have nothing to do with the Olympics for at least another decade.