Lazarus Says NBC Will Address Russia's Anti-Gay Laws During Sochi Games Coverage
NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus on Saturday "acknowledged that the network will address the controversy stirred by Russia’s new anti-gay laws" during the net's '14 Sochi Olympics coverage, according to Cynthia Littleton of VARIETY. Lazarus noted that the Olympic Games have "long been affected by social and cultural issues of the day." He said, "We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games, as has always been done by NBC’s coverage." Lazarus emphasized that the IOC has "pressed the Russian government on the new law and has been assured that 'there will not be any issues regarding what takes place during the Games.'" He "sought to distance NBC and the Olympics from a broader responsibility to make a statement from a human rights standpoint" (VARIETY.com, 7/27). Lazarus said that both NBC and the IOC "aren't happy with Russia's crackdown on gay rights." Lazarus: "We will again acknowledge that it exists, but I don't know what it's going to mean to us yet. So I cannot tell you how we're going to cover it. ... We don't believe that the Games are in the spirit of the law that they've passed, and we're hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/28). In Baltimore, Michael Gold wrote given NBC's "near-invisible coverage of China's human rights issues" during the '08 Beijing Games, "don't consider me reassured." The net may "consider its primary mission reporting on the results of sporting events that take place in Sochi." But each Olympics is "inextricably linked to its setting, and networks consistently run location-based pieces meant to orient viewers with the event's backdrop." If NBC is "intent on doing fluff pieces about, say, fake snow in Sochi, fine." So long as it "explores the anti-gay attitudes lurking right behind the Olympics' LGBT-friendly Potemkin village" (Baltimore SUN, 7/28).
DUELING DOCS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted NBC on Saturday announced that former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan had "agreed to an exclusive interview with the network as part of an upcoming documentary on Kerrigan and Tonya Harding that will air on NBC during the Sochi Olympics." Kerrigan will "be interviewed by Mary Carillo, who will narrate the NBC documentary." What makes the announcement "interesting is the gamesmanship between ESPN and NBC for Kerrigan." ESPN recently announced a doc on Harding and Kerrigan would be part of its fall "30 for 30" slate. The film's director, Nanette Burstein, said in May said that she "was optimistic Kerrigan would sit down with her for an interview but as of this writing, Kerrigan had declined ESPN's overtures." An NBC Sports spokesperson said that Kerrigan "is not being paid for her interview." But when asked if Kerrigan was being considered for an on-air gig for the Sochi Games, the spokesperson said, "Nancy is among many former Winter Olympic athletes under consideration for an on-air role in Sochi" (SI.com, 7/28).
GETTING READY FOR RUSSIA: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Andrea Morabito noted Lazarus "defended NBC's tape-delay strategy to feature marquee events in primetime, pointing to 2012's record ratings as proof the audience was on board with it." He said, "What we learned in London is people who streamed events live during [the] day tended to watch our packaged show in primetime. With the addition of each device they added more viewing." Morabito wrote there was "one thing NBC wasn't willing to defend though -- its cutting away from the Closing Ceremony" to show an episode of the now-canceled "Animal Practice," which "drew major backlash last summer." Lazarus: "We learned some things along the way. You don't make [the] same decisions twice. I don't think we would put ourselves in position to do that again" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 7/27). Meanwhile, NBC Sports announced the roles for Al Michaels and Apolo Anton Ohno during its Sochi coverage. Michaels will host daytime coverage on NBC Sports Network on weekdays and NBC during weekends. Ohno will serve as an analyst for short track speedskating, while also working on features and offering studio commentary. NBC will begin its primetime coverage of the Sochi Games on Feb. 6 -- one night before the net provides coverage of the Opening Ceremony (NBC Sports).