SBD/February 17, 2014/Olympics

NBC Saturday Night Is Lowest Olympic Primetime Rating Since Turin Closing Ceremony

NBC earned a 9.6 fast-national rating and 17.1 million viewers for Olympic coverage on Saturday from 8:30-11:00pm ET, down sharply from comparable coverage during both the ’10 Vancouver and ’06 Turin Games. Saturday night’s telecast from Sochi included Gold Medal finals for women’s super-G, men’s short track speedskating, men’s speedskating, men’s ski jumping and men’s skeleton. The 9.6 rating is the lowest for any Olympic primetime telecast (Summer or Winter) since the Turin Closing Ceremony drew an 8.9 rating (14.8 million viewers). Despite the drop, NBC had an easy win on Saturday in primetime. The comparable Saturday night from Vancouver drew a 14.7 rating and 26.7 million viewers, while the same night from Turin drew an 11.3 rating and 19.7 million viewers. Through Saturday night, NBC is averaging a 13.2 rating (23.5 million viewers), up 14% from Turin, but down 10% from Vancouver (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Merissa Marr noted NBC's ratings for Sochi going into the weekend had "settled into a pattern" of beating Turin but falling shy of Vancouver. There "have been many challenges for the Sochi Olympics in its first week, not least the fact that several star American athletes have disappointed." Beating the Vancouver Games "was always seen as a high bar for Sochi" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/15).

WINTER OLYMPICS AVERAGE PRIMETIME RATINGS TREND
 
'14 (Sochi)
'10 (Vancouver)
'06 (Turin)
'02 (Salt Lake)
9th Day (Saturday)
9.6
14.7
11.3
14.0
8th Day (Friday)
11.0
13.4
11.2
15.8
7th Day (Thursday)
13.4
14.5
11.9
17.6
6th Day (Wednesday)
12.1
16.7
11.3
17.5
5th Day (Tuesday)
13.7
12.2
11.3
18.5
4th Day (Monday)
12.8
14.2
12.8
19.6
3rd Day (Sunday)
14.4
14.3
13.3
17.6
2nd Day (Saturday)
13.9
14.0
13.5
17.1
Opening Ceremony
17.0
17.3
12.8
25.5
NINE-NIGHT AVG.
13.2
14.7
12.2
n/a
 

COSTAS COMING BACK: DEADLINE.com's Lisa De Moraes reported Bob Costas will "resume his primetime and late night hosting duties" of NBC's coverage beginning tonight. Costas has missed six nights due to an eye infection, and an NBC Sports spokesperson said that Costas is "better, but his eye condition is still noticeable and he will wear glasses" again on air. Costas yesterday was at NBC's studio for about two hours, "seeing how the light affects his eyes and having meetings to discuss his return" (DEADLINE.com, 2/16). Costas this morning said, "I'm not a 100 percent, that's for sure. But if I waited until I was 100 percent, the Olympics would be over. If the audience can put up with still a little bit of red eye that's hiding behind the glasses, then I can put up with it for the next week, too" ("Today," NBC, 2/17). The AP's David Bauder wrote NBC's Meredith Vieira on Friday "was a solid pro in her first turn as prime-time Olympics host," though she "wasn't given much to do." Vieira hosted both Friday and Saturday night following three nights of Matt Lauer filling in for Costas. There has "been some online grumbling about NBC turning to two 'Today' show hosts to sub for Costas instead of a sportscaster." But what the role really requires in an "engaging MC." If NBC "attracts just a sports audience to the prime-time telecast, it fails," so it "was smart to have a woman do the job on a night where skating dominated the agenda" (AP, 2/14).

WHY NOT A SPORTSCASTER? SI.com's Richard Deitsch wondered why NBC opted to go with Lauer and Vieira as "opposed to a sports department staffer such as Rebecca Lowe, Al Michaels or Dan Patrick." NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said, "We’ve got no shortage of candidates. Many of them are already working for us on the air, and I think that was really one of the considerations ... Meredith's schedule was a little bit looser so that’s why, and obviously, we have a relationship and have worked together" (SI.com, 2/16). In Orlando, Jerry Greene asked of the decision to have Lauer and Vieira sub for Costas, "What in the world does this say to Dan Patrick and Al Michaels, two of America's best known sportscasters that are left on the bench?" It says NBC "does not think of the Olympics as a prime time sport." The net instead wants someone "who will be ready to hold up a stray puppy adopted by an American athlete" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/16).

CLEAR-EYED COMMENTARY: The New Yorker Editor and NBC Olympic special correspondent David Remnick's stint at the Sochi Games ended last Tuesday, but the N.Y. TIMES' John Koblin wrote, "You almost wish it lasted a little longer." Remnick's commentary "was a welcome respite from the usual fare," and his presence "provided quite a contrast from NBC’s usual crew: He offered informative, context-rich color commentary versus the sort of stuff usually used to describe balloons and marching bands at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16).

VITAL TO GO VIRAL: The AP's Bauder profiled NBC Sports Senior Dir Brian Gilmore, who is "assigned to create viral videos for the Olympics." His job is to "find moments -- wacky, heartbreaking or heartwarming -- to break out and post in the hope of generating the most online traffic possible." Gilmore: "Our job is to find things that can resonate." Bauder noted a clip of Indian luger Shiva Keshavan falling off his sled before catching himself and getting back on was the NBCOlympics.com's "most popular clip for several days until Olga Graf blew by him." The Russian speedskater was "captured by cameras after a race zipping down her Lycra uniform front to cool off, only to quickly zip it back up when she realized she had nothing on underneath." The clip was "G-rated but still, more than 2.5 million people had to see for themselves." Other popular clips "include an interview with tearful American skier Hannah Kearney, overcome at the realization her career was ending with a bronze instead of gold medal; skier Todd Lodwick 'photo-bombing' NBC's Randy Moss as Moss reported on him; luger Kate Hansen psyching herself for competition with a dance routine; and a cross-country skier who pressed on despite a broken ski." Gilmore: "You know it when you see it. You're looking for emotion. You're looking for things you've never seen before" (AP, 2/15).

UPS & DOWNS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen reported, "Olympic action accounted for 24.4% of NBC's primetime and late-night broadcasts on Tuesday night." This is the "truly bizarre part of a Winter Olympics broadcast: There isn't that much Winter Olympics." The 24.4% figure is "less than breaks in the Olympic action (26.8%) and almost 22 minutes less than commercials (33.1%)" (WSJ.com, 2/15).

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