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Volume 24 No. 116


NBC announced that Meredith Vieira will fill in for Bob Costas as host of Friday's primetime and late-night coverage of the Sochi Games. She becomes the first woman in U.S. TV history to serve as solo host of the Olympics in primetime. Vieira joined Matt Lauer in hosting the Sochi Games' Opening Ceremony, reprising her role from the '12 London Games (NBC). Costas said of his eye infection, "I did the first five nights wearing glasses, even though people could see how red and swollen my eyes were. I didn't care because I could still function. I could still read the notes I had to read on the athletes and find my way around the studio. But then in the last 36 hours, it got to the point my vision became so blurry and sensitive to light, I can't even be in regular room light, let alone studio light. I couldn't be of any use to them. ... I am day-to-day. I'm hoping that I'm back by the weekend and I certainly think I'll be able to do the second half of the games. The virus, they tell me, won't run its course for two or three weeks, but the symptoms will crest at their worst and start to get better pretty soon. As soon as the symptoms get to the point where I can be in the studio, I'll be there" (, 2/13). Lauer had been filling in for Costas for the last three nights and BLOOMBERG NEWS' Andy Fixmer wrote Lauer "proved a suitable substitute" (, 2/13). VARIETY's Daniel Goldblatt notes, "Even with Costas out (and the harsh time difference), ratings for the Sochi Winter Olympics have been on par with the ratings for Vancouver four years ago" (, 2/14).

NBC finished with a 12.1 fast-national rating and 20.8 million viewers for Wednesday night's Olympic coverage, which featured U.S. speedskater Shani Davis' attempt at a third-straight Gold Medal in the 1000-meter event. Also featured in the telecast were Gold Medal finals for men's nordic combined (individual K-95), women's alpine skiing (downhill), pairs' figure skating and women's snowboarding (halfpipe). The audience on Wednesday night was NBC's lowest for the Sochi Games in primetime to date. The corresponding night in Vancouver earned a 16.7 rating and an 11.3 in Turin. Through six nights, NBC's 14.0 average rating is down 6% compared to '10, but up 12% compared to '06 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). The AP’s David Bauder wrote the “same night in Vancouver was a blockbuster," with Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Davis "all winning gold medals." White and Davis' competitions in '10 were "televised live" in the eastern U.S. Only Davis competed on Wednesday, and he "finished off the podium in a race shown on tape delay" (AP, 2/13).

'14 (Sochi)
'10 (Vancouver)
'06 (Turin)
'02 (Salt Lake)
6th Day (Wednesday)
5th Day (Tuesday)
4th Day (Monday)
3rd Day (Sunday)
2nd Day (Saturday)
Opening Ceremony

HURRY UP & WAIT: The AP’s Bauder wrote NBC’s "plausibly live" format “felt wrong” when it came to Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko on Thursday night. Plushenko came out with a “sudden retirement because of injury before performing Thursday,” but NBC’s primetime broadcast “presented a pre-taped intro about Plushenko as if he were about to start skating.” Plushenko’s retirement occurred 10 hours before NBC ran the feature and had become the “story of the day.” Bauder: “It should have been covered in a more straightforward manner.” Meanwhile, NBC figure skating analysts Sandra Bezic and Scott Hamilton were at their “finest with the performance of American figure skater Jeremy Abbott.” Abbott “took a hard fall on his hip” before he “almost miraculously … got up and finished his routine.” Both Bezic and Hamilton “properly and enthusiastically hailed Abbott's guts” (AP, 2/13).  In L.A., Steven Zeitchik writes for that "fraught sports moment just between subjective act and conclusive judgment, there’s nothing quite like Winter Olympics figure skating and the period just before scores are announced." These waits are "increasingly uncomfortable." NBC would call "what it does now drama," but the rest of us "just call it awkward" (, 2/13).

TO TELL, OR NOT TO TELL: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley notes local affiliate WTMJ-NBC has decided its newscasts at 5:00pm and 6:00pm "should be news-free zones in terms of some results" from the Sochi Games. However, WISN-ABC News Dir Chris Gegg said that his Milwaukee-based station "is not using spoiler alerts for this Olympics." Gregg: "We believe that social media and technology are certainly changing the way people experience the Games. Even though NBC won’t show the key events until primetime, the results are out there on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and news sites." Journal Broadcast Group VP/Local Programming & Marketing Jim Thomas, whose company owns WTMJ, said, "As users get more sophisticated with their consumption of various media platforms, they know they can get the results. If they want them, they can go find them. So the feedback we have been getting is when I choose to get the results, I’ll go get them. On the other hand, rather than you giving us the results, I’d rather you just be silent on it and let me watch it in primetime because I have made an effort to avoid them." WITI-Fox Sports Dir Tom Pipines said that his station "is not regularly reporting event results at all from this Olympics." He said, "We don’t have the Dan Jansen, Bonnie Blair type of compelling figures ... That, in conjunction with the fact that things haven’t gone very well (for the U.S.). ... There is nothing really compelling" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/14).

MEASURING STICK: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sharma & Stewart note NBC is using comScore, not Nielsen, as it measures how people are following its coverage "not just on TVs, but also tablets, smartphones and computers." The move to comScore is "one sign of the intensifying competition facing Nielsen." TV execs said that their "internal estimates suggest Nielsen's ratings, which in the past year or two have shown sharp declines for many big networks, aren't capturing the true size of their audiences." NBCUniversal President of Research & Media Development Alan Wurtzel said Nielsen "needs to step up its game." comScore said that it can offer "a single metric that tells how many people watched a TV show across all platforms, including live and time-shifted TV, video-on-demand, and online streaming." NBC is one of "several media companies and advertisers" testing the service. Beyond the test with NBC, comScore has "recruited a sample of 300 tech-savvy consumers" to study how people "shift between platforms during their viewing of the games." The first three days of the comScore experiment "showed that 61% of the 300 recruits watched the events on multiple devices." Also, seven out 10 of the recruits "used their smartphones to follow the games." Nielsen said that it is "doing its own digital measurement trial with NBC for the Olympics, which will measure the reach of online ads on NBC's Olympics mobile app" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/14).

Sochi 2014 organizers on Friday won high praise from the IOC for completing a successful first week that was free of transportation and security issues and full of good weather and active venues. "From day one when they turned the key to start last Thursday, we have been only happy with what did happen with the organization and fluidity of the operations," said Gilbert Felli, the IOC's Exec Dir of the Olympic Games. "We have been able also to see that where little issues didn't work fully as expected at the beginning, it has been corrected very quickly. We are pleased." Felli said that transportation has been "on time, precise" and easy to navigate; the atmosphere in venues is "great;" and the weather, which has been sunny and in the 60s, is "beautiful," which makes operations easier. Sochi 2104 has sold 1 million tickets for competition so far and transported 1.3 million spectators (see chart). As of Thursday morning local time, it had completed 79 events and awarded 37 of the 98 medals that will be given out for the Olympics. Sochi has not been without its critics. Norwegian IOC member and Marketing Commission Chair Gerhard Heiberg told the AP that he was disappointed by the lack of atmosphere in the venues. "The TV pictures are wonderful, the competitions are wonderful, the venues are great, but I feel a bit the lack of enthusiasm and the joy of sports," Heiberg said this week. Felli acknowledged concerns before the Games about the atmosphere, but said the IOC had been pleased with the enthusiasm of the spectators. "The two or three first days of the Games people are looking at each other trying to understand what has happened and then they start to mix, to go together, and then the atmosphere starts to create, so that's in every Games a bit the same," Felli said.

1 million tickets sold
1.3 million spectators transported
79 events completed
37 of 98 medals awarded

PROGRESS REPORT: SI media reporter Richard Deitsch also stopped by in Sochi to help give an assessment of the Games so far. Deitsch: “You bid on the Games, and one of the promises you make is that everything is going to be ready when the world arrives. … Seems like to me they needed one more week to get ready." He adds, "The ratings don't surprise me at all. They're not going to beat London or Vancouver because of the time difference." Listen to the full podcast.

U.S. Speedskating has had a disappointing performance so far during the Sochi Games, and one possible reason may be the “high-tech racing suits the team adopted” from Under Armour, according to Robinson & Germano of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Three sources said that the suits -- which had been billed prior to the Games as a “major advantage -- have a design flaw that may be slowing the skaters down.” The sources added that the “vents on the back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are allowing air to enter the suit and create drag that keeps the skaters from staying in the ‘low’ position they need to achieve maximum speed.” Robinson & Germano reported several speedskaters, including Heather Richardson, “sent their suits to an Under Armour seamstress Thursday to have the panel modified with an extra piece of rubber.” Richardson, who holds the world record in the 1,000 meters, finished seventh in Thursday’s race, the best finish by any American heading into Friday’s action. UA Senior VP/Innovation Kevin Haley said that the company was “confident that the suits were fast.” However, he added execs will “move heaven and earth to make them better.” Robinson & Germano noted UA has sponsored U.S. Speedskating since ’11, though their deal “expires after these Games.” The U.S. team tested the suits “over the last month in simulated race conditions, but had never worn it in competition until this week.” U.S. national coach Ryan Shimabukuro “declined to discuss the performance of the suits or Under Armour.” He said, “I’m not going to criticize them, even if I was allowed to. They’re a great partner. And it’d be stupid to criticize a company that has backed us completely” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/14).

MANY FACTORS DETERMINE SUCCESS: U.S. Speedskating Exec Dir Ted Morris indicated that “many factors determine Olympic success.” He said in a statement, “We are constantly making adjustments to improve results.” Haley added that many skaters “have posted personal-best sea-level heat times, split times or race times this week.” Baltimore-based advertising and marketing firm IMRE Dir of Sports Marketing Matt Saler said that he “didn’t believe questions raised over the suit would hurt the Under Armour brand.” Saler: “It’s not a type of clothing material that’s purchased by the mainstream consumer, and I don’t think most Olympics fans would associate Under Armour with the reason the athlete is not medaling” (Baltimore SUN, 2/14).

If there is an “early gold medal for social media” during the Sochi Games, it would “likely go to Procter & Gamble,” according to Bruce Horovitz of USA TODAY. P&G has been the “most buzzed-about brand” during the Olympics “as measured by YouTube views.” A study by brand insight technology specialist Kontera shows P&G has seen “more than 27 million YouTube views through the first seven days of the Winter Games.” The “silver medal goes to Visa, with 10 million YouTube views,” while a “very distant bronze goes to Samsung, with 1.8 million.” Kontera Exec VP/Product & Marketing Ammiel Kamon noted that P&G and its brands by the start of the Games “had posted 38 different YouTube videos.” The company on the opening day of the Games “already had 15.8 million views for its ‘Pick them Back Up’ YouTube video about moms picking up their kids after they fall.” Kamon said that while P&G has done the “best job garnering interest before the Games, it may be Visa that has most moved the needle during the Games.” The credit card company  has “pushed out videos and ads focusing on stories of real Olympic athletes and how their life goals can sometimes coincide with society's goals” (USA TODAY, 2/14). ADWEEK’s Christopher Heine noted P&G has the top three spots in Ace Metrix’ “Top 10 rankings for Winter Games TV spots.” The ratings are “dominated by packaged-goods, though United Airlines makes an appearance with its ‘Hopes of a Nation’ commercial.” The results are “based on a sample of 500 consumers, while weighing attributes such as persuasion, likeability, relevance [and] desire” (, 2/13).

PRIDE & PREJUDICE: In Toronto, Rosie DiManno writes the Olympics are "really an advertising lollapalooza." Close association with the Sochi Games "has been a double-edged sword, however, with demonstrations against Russia’s anti-gay laws beaming in on sponsors to show their displeasure" (TORONTO STAR, 2/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Susan Krashinsky wrote as the public "raises concerns over Russia’s anti-gay policies ... very few advertisers have taken the opportunity to step up and show support for the LGBT community." Krashinsky: "So why, during an Olympic Games that have highlighted concerns over discrimination and violence against gays, have Canadian advertisers not made a message of support part of their campaign plans? Is it a missed opportunity?" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/14).

SHOP TIL YOU DROP: The GLOBE & MAIL's Marina Strauss notes Canadian Tire Corp.'s "decision last year to sponsor the Canadian Olympic Team is helping the Toronto-based merchant trumpet its homegrown roots during the Sochi Games in the face of fierce foreign competition." Canadian Tire on Thursday reported Q4 results "that surpassed analysts’ forecasts for the fifth straight quarter" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/14).

The Sochi Games have "made it oddly difficult to buy official merchandise," as the main Olympic Park "features just one superstore, which is operated by Russian retailer Bosco di Ciliegi, Sochi's primary Olympic licensee," according to Orwall & McKay of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The wait to get inside "is often an hour long and sometimes has been two hours." Merchandise stands at other Olympic locations "are scarce, and can be hard to spot -- like a nondescript trailer at the extreme sports venue in the mountains that looks almost identical to the ones used for food concessions and restrooms." In an "age of hypercommercialization, it seems impossible that an event like the Olympics would be under-merchandised." But "this is Russia." Bosco VP/Marketing Olga Chernosvitova said, "We definitely underestimated the interest in this during the Games, and in Russia generally. We didn't expect this demand. … It is far more than we would ever have expected." SOCOG said that it is "aiming for retail sales" of about $500M, which would bring it around $30M in "licensing revenue from its 55 partners and a total of 5,000 products." By contrast, the '10 Vancouver Games "generated more than" $50M in licensing revenue for its organizing committee; and the '12 London Games, which "featured 10,000 licensed products, generated" about $130M in revenue for its organizers. Big crowds descended on the Olympic Park superstore "from the get-go, and they have been grouchy about the relatively slim pickings they find after enduring the long wait to shop." However, the Sochi merchandising program "extends far beyond the Olympic Park to the far reaches of Russia." About 50% of the sales "are being rung up in Moscow, the site of another superstore; about 15% of sales are in Sochi" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/14).

U.S. skiers Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper appeared on Friday's edition of NBC’s “Today” show to discuss sweeping all three medals in the debut of the men’s slopestyle event. Near the end of the interview, host Matt Lauer asked the Olympians, “You were once somewhat obscure athletes, and now with this sweep, you are one of the biggest stories at the Olympics, have you understood that life might change a little bit?” After the trio agreed and said that things have been “hectic” during the “whirlwind” of the last 48 hours, Lauer asked, “Do you want to see how your life is going to change, can I show you something?” Lauer then proceeded to open a bag and said, “Look what Kellogg’s rushed out this morning.” He handed them a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with a picture of all three skiers on the cover. Lauer: "I hope you guys like Corn Flakes" (“Today,” NBC, 2/14).

A DAY TO REMEMBER: In Denver, Jason Blevins writes the U.S. riders "are a tight-knit crew." An American on the podium "is a victory not just for country, but for snowbarding and freeskiing" (DENVER POST, 2/14). In Boston, Scott Thurston writes, "Many slopestyle aficionados will remember Thursday as the greatest day in the history of the sport as the All-America trio put an exclamation point on US dominance in the new X Games events." Kenworthy said, "Our sport is young, cool, and edgy, and we have a following all over" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/15). USA TODAY's Lindsay Jones notes many of the other U.S. skiers and snowboarders "crowded the finish area to watch Team USA's first sweep of this Games" (USA TODAY, 2/14). In L.A., Bill Plaschke notes this was "only the third time the U.S. has swept the podium in the Winter Olympics, but the first time it was done by three bros." Christensen said, "We're just a bunch of friends trying to have fun." Plaschke writes slopestyle is "a breathtaking event that looks like snowboarding with the volume pumped" (L.A. TIMES, 2/14). In N.Y., Mary Pilon writes slopestyle is a "judged sport that is essentially Cirque du Soleil on snow, and the athlete lexicon is heavy on words like 'dude' and 'awesome'" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/14). The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson writes slopestyle "celebrated a mutual love-in with the sometimes staid five-ringed circus." A process that began "with the introduction of snowboarding in Nagano and has accelerated since, culminated at Sochi's Extreme Park with a press conference that was pure Walt Disney" (GUARDIAN, 2/14).

REEXAMINING THE RULES: The IOC on Thusday said that it "will re-examine its restrictions on logos worn and flashed by competitors ... as the rides of most Sochi snowboarders flaunt stated limits on the allowable size of manufacturer names" (, 2/13).

Each day during the Winter Games, THE DAILY offers our take on the business performances of some of the people, sponsors, broadcasters and other entities around Sochi.

GOLD: NBC SPORTS NETWORK -- The cable channel is pulling mammoth numbers, relatively speaking, for its Sochi coverage, setting viewership records nearly daily and topping not only its viewership from the London Summer Olympics but also even from last summer's Stanley Cup Final.

SILVER: NORWAY'S CURLING UNIFORMS -- Once again, these guys have out-done themselves. Bravo.


BRONZE: JAMAICAN BOBSLED TEAM -- Sure, it's not the story it was in the 1980s, but everybody still loves the Jamaican bobsledders, who are returning to the Games for the first time since 2002 following a string of five straight Olympic berths from 1988 through '02.

TIN: SOCHI 2014 LICENSING -- Sochi organizers handed its licensing program over to Russian apparel maker Bosco, and the program suffered as a result. There are no Olympic pins, usually a staple of the Games, and hard-core pin traders can't believe it.
The rest of the program emphasizes Sochi's mascots and its colorful Russian graffiti design. Not good planning at all.

SportsBusiness Daily/Journal have converted their On The Ground blog into a comprehensive, daily website devoted to the Sochi Games and the business behind it. The site is free and runs through Monday, Feb. 24, the day after the Closing Ceremony. The site also can be accessed through the On The Ground link on SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle is in Sochi providing news updates, people profiles and personal insights from the Games. Entries currently on the blog include:

IOC praises Sochi 2014 for successful first week

* NBC producer Jim Bell forges ahead through criticism, long hours

* Podcast: SI's Richard Deitsch assesses Sochi, NBC

* Early Sochi medalists make big jumps on Twitter

* Japanese company Airweave signs USOC sponsorship