SBD/February 10, 2014/Olympics

NBC Earns 13.9 Fast-National Rating For Saturday Primetime, Down Slightly From '10

Saturday's team figure skating was NBCSN's most-viewed telecast ever
NBC saw a slight audience decline for the first night of televised competition from the Sochi Games compared to four years ago. Saturday's tape-delayed primetime coverage from 8:00-11:06pm ET earned a 13.9 fast-national rating and 25.1 million viewers, down from a 14.0 rating and 26.2 million viewers for the second night of coverage from the '10 Vancouver Games, which aired live. The second night of tape-delayed coverage from the '06 Turin Games earned a 13.5 rating and 23.2 million viewers. Minneapolis-St. Paul continued to be the leading U.S. market with a 22.4 local rating on Saturday night. Meanwhile, NBCSN averaged 2.6 million viewers for Olympic coverage Saturday from 6:00am-2:30pm, marking the net's best daytime viewership on record. Team figure skating from 1:00-2:00pm averaged 4.9 million viewers, marking NBCSN’s most-viewed telecast ever. The event passed the previous high of 4.4 million viewers set by the women's soccer Gold Medal match from the '’12 London Games (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor ).

THE NEXT GENERATION? The AP's David Bauder noted NBC during the Games "is experimenting by airing live figure skating during the daytime" on NBCSN. The plan "gives on-the-job training to what may be its next generation of marquee analysts, the team of Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski." Lipinski "is the more experienced broadcaster, and it shows." So far, Weir is "concentrating on hitting his marks and not worrying about adding flair" (AP, 2/8). SI’s Richard Deitsch wrote on Twitter, “I'm getting great feedback on Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski on my feed. People seem to like them better than the NBC crew.” USAToday.com's Maggie Hendricks wrote, “A million times agree. Honest, clear, not afraid to critique but not critiquing for critiquing's sake” (TWITTER.com, 2/9).

AN UNCOOPERATIVE NARRATIVE: In L.A., Steven Zeitchik wrote NBC on Saturday "faced a different tale" than traditional ones of triumph, as it instead was faced with one of "expectation-laden disappointment." U.S. skier Hannah Kearney was the defending Gold Medalist in women's moguls, but her story "didn't exactly unfold as the network hoped." She made a "costly mistake coming off her first jump in her final run, a development conveyed with convincing pathos by the event's color commentator, former moguls gold medalist Jonny Moseley." It would have been "tricky enough if Kearney was bested by no-names," but "eclipsing her was an even better made-for-TV story," sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe finishing first and second. However, there was "only one problem: the Dufour-Lapointes are Canadian, and that doesn't exactly play strongly on American TV." NBC "was left to rethink, on the fly, how to cover a story it had hyped considerably," but Kearney "made the decision for them." She said, "Bronze medalist doesn't sound so good to me." NBC in airing this "captured a relatable part of the Olympics experience." Kearney "said what most of us would be feeling if we worked for years and didn't get what we wanted" (LATIMES.com, 2/9).

SHARAPOVA'S STRATEGY
: Maria Sharapova is serving as a guest analyst for NBC during the Sochi Games, and on Friday she said that she "approached her NBC gig more as an ambassador for Sochi than as a sports television assignment or tryout for a future broadcasting gig." Sharapova, who lived in Sochi as a child, said, "We never had a proper conversation about what my job description would be here but I had a lot of experiences in my childhood in this city. So on a larger scale I wanted to showcase the city to an American audience and take them around certain spots that I remembered from my childhood." SI.com's Deitsch noted among her segments for the net are "touring Russia House in Sochi ... and traveling around the city." Sharapova said that she "wanted to bring a 'warmth' to the American audience about Sochi because of all the questions leading up to the games." Though Sharapova "was only contracted for the first week of the games, NBC got a lot out of its correspondent in a short amount of time." NBCSN aired the piece on touring Sochi "less than 24 hours after it was initially shown on NBC" (SI.com, 2/10).

OVERDOING IT ON RUSSIA? USA TODAY's Robert Bianco writes when it comes to covering Russia itself, NBC "seems to be vacillating between watchdog and travelogue, and doing neither particularly well." The net during its Opening Ceremony coverage ran a segment in which Bob Costas raised the issues of "terrorism, human-rights violations, cost overruns, and whether the Games should have been given to Sochi in the first place." However, it "cut the references to discrimination from IOC president Thomas Bach's opening ceremony address." Bianco: "Either the network doesn't know what it wants to say, or it's willing to say something only when Costas is on screen" (USA TODAY, 2/10). In Charlotte, Peter St. Onge in an open letter to NBC and other media outlets wrote, "The world needs to know that the host of these Olympics is troubled." St. Onge: "Thanks to you, we understand that more. Now can we have the Olympics back? We’d like to spend the next two weeks meeting athletes we haven’t seen before and saying hello again to those we haven’t heard from in awhile" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/8).

DIFFERING POINTS OF VIEW: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote while ABC's "GMA" last week "reported that Russia’s Sochi Olympics are doomed to fail in every conceivable way, NBC’s 'Today Show' presented an endless string of reports portraying these Olympics as guaranteed to be grand and glorious, 'must-see NBC TV!'" Mushnick: "Naturally, ABC News treated the 'Olympic movement' far differently when it owned Olympic rights." And if NBC "were to lose Olympic rights, NBC News suddenly would discover and report thumbs-down news about the Olympics that it either never before knew, or at least never before reported" (N.Y. POST, 2/9).
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