SBD/February 7, 2014/Olympics

NBC Wins Primetime Battle Thursday Behind "Bonus" Night Of Sochi Coverage

Costas acknowledged Sochi's security and human rights issues in the telecast
NBC got its broadcast of the Sochi Games off on the right foot Thursday, winning the primetime TV battle with what the net has deemed a "bonus" night of coverage. The net earned an 11.8 overnight Nielsen rating, the best overnight rating for a Thursday on any net since the NFL season-opening Ravens-Broncos game on NBC Sept. 5. The Olympic coverage was the top broadcast for each half-hour window. Minneapolis topped all local markets with a 17.7 overnight rating, followed by Indianapolis, K.C. and Denver. Thursday's coverage will not be factored into NBC's overall cumulative ratings for Sochi (THE DAILY). ESPN's Adnan Virk said, “All of this negative publicity that has been around the Sochi Olympics, I think it’s kind of helped. I think a lot of people were tuning in last night to go, ‘Hey, could this be the worst Olympics of all-time? They’ve already been wildly over budget. They’ve had PR nightmares, gay rights issues. Maybe this could be a real disaster.’" Virk added, "I thought last night was a pretty good night” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 2/7).

NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES
: NBC's Bob Costas began Thursday's primetime broadcast coverage by saying, "Tonight, we begin our coverage of an Olympics that should produce large doses of excitement and pageantry, but which also take place against a backdrop of questions about policy differences, security, cost overruns and human rights issues, including Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. All at times will be part of the discussion during our Olympic coverage." The broadcast included a conversation with The New Yorker Editor David Remnick and Russian TV host Vladimir Posner about social and political issues facing Russia. Costas noted both Remnick and Posner "will return for additional segments later in our coverage." Costas: "Some of them will be longer in length. Then we'll be able to get into these issues and more" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/6). ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Erin Strecker writes the announcement by Costas was "possibly surprising" to some viewers in that the net "didn't shy away from all of the controversy surrounding the Sochi Games." It will be "interesting to see how that coverage continues as part of the primetime highlights" (EW.com, 2/7). Meanwhile, DC-based Human Rights Campaign, a prominent gay and lesbian rights organization, said that it "would be watching NBC and its cable partners -- every hour of every day -- to see how much they talk about a widely criticized Russian law restricting gay-rights activities." HRC VP/Communications & Marketing Fred Sainz said that he "hopes that NBC would devote at least one lengthy report on the issue of how gays are treated in Russia and that it should be mentioned at least once every night during more than two weeks of prime-time coverage" (AP, 2/6).

PINK EYE AND THE BRAIN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Mike Oz noted Costas looked “a tad unfortunate in the opening minutes of NBC's first primetime broadcast,” and after “welcoming the TV audience, Costas was quick to address his very obvious eye affliction.” He noted he “woke up to discover his eye was swollen shut” and explained that he will be "wearing glasses for the next few days.” Costas' eye “quickly became the talking point of the primetime broadcast,” and he “was a trending topic on Twitter -- a parody account for his eye spawned almost instantaneously” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/6). Costas said, "I have no choice but to go all 'Peabody and Sherman' on you for the next couple of nights since I woke up this morning with my left eye swollen shut and just about as red as the old Soviet flag. According to the NBC doctors here, it's some kind of minor infection which should resolve itself by the weekend" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/6). "The Dan Patrick Show" Exec Producer Paul Pabst sarcastically said, "His eye was hurting. Bob Costas in an Olympic year -- it's tough to beat him for the Sports Emmy for Best Host. Bob Costas fighting through this, Dan (Patrick) doesn't stand a chance." "The Dan Patrick Show" Dir of Operations Seton O'Connor added, "What he did yesterday was win an Emmy, that's what Bob Costas did. Olympic year, 'powering though' illness -- give me break. It's done" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 2/7).

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes NBC Thursday night featured the new Olympic sport of slopestyle snowboarding, an event in which men and women launch themselves “down the hillside like a skateboarder, glancing off ramps, rails and other radical obstacles before attempting to land without bursting any vital organs.” While U.S. Olympian Shaun White “already bailed” from the event a few days earlier and other competitors have been critical about the course's safety, viewers would “guess there was nothing really to worry about” from how NBC’s Todd Harris and Todd Richards addressed it. Richards during the broadcast said, “There’s been some problems in practice, some people did go down. ... But after some modifications done to these jumps, they were fixed over time.” Hoffarth: “No mention of White backing out? Naw, just sit back and enjoy the carnage” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).

THE BELLES OF THE BALL: NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell discussed what events are likely to be showcased on NBC's primetime program and said, "One of the crown jewels of the Winter Olympics is still figure skating. From there you're talking about alpine events like skiing, where the U.S. team is particularly strong. You're seeing that with snowboarding as well. Apolo Ohno also did a lot to really raise the popularity of short-track speed skating." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Lynette Rice writes athletes who are "sure to get the lion's share of the attention -- at least initially" -- are returning '10 medalists snowboarder Shaun White and speedskaters Shani Davis and J.R. Celski. Women's skiing freestyle moguls also will feature defending Gold Medal-winner Hannah Kearney, while Jamie Anderson is "a favorite to win the gold in women's snowboarding slopestyle." The sport "likely to get the least amount of prime-time love: curling" (ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, 2/14 issue).

GETTING SOMETHING BACK: REUTERS' Grover & Saba reported NBC execs "insist profits are possible" on the Sochi Games after spending $775M for TV rights. NBCUniversal "broke even on its telecast" of the '12 London Games, but it lost $223M at the '10 Vancouver Games. Making a profit "won't be easy," as Sochi is nine hours ahead of the East Coast, "putting many games in the early hours for NBC's audience." The Winter Olympics also are "typically less popular than the summer games." SNL Kagan senior analyst Deana Myers said that "wringing a profit out of the Olympics this year will be a bit easier for NBC because it is paying less than [the] $820 million it had to recoup" at Vancouver. Kantar Media data showed that NBC also has "roughly 28 percent more TV ads to sell by airing 530 hours of programming, up from 436" in '10. NBCUniversal is "putting games on the NBC broadcast network and four cable channels" (REUTERS, 2/6). In N.Y., Justin Terranova writes under the header, "NBC Hopes Prime-Time Delay Doesn't Doom Sochi" (N.Y. POST, 2/7).
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