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Volume 24 No. 219

Olympics

One week into the Pyeongchang Games, Team USA is "on pace for its worst Winter Olympic medal output" in 20 years, according to Henry Bushnell of YAHOO SPORTS. The U.S. finished sixth in the medal table at the '98 Nagano Games, claiming "just 13 in 68 events" -- 6.4% of available medals. It has not finished "outside the top two in the table" in the four subsequent Winter Games prior to Pyeongchang and "never claimed fewer than 9.5 percent of podium spots." The U.S. following Friday's competitions "sits tied for fifth in the medal table" and has won "just eight medals in 46 events." That is an even lower pace than seen at Nagano. Team USA has "several medal favorites throughout the second week of competition." However, a "few high-profile flops" have the Americans in an "unexpectedly poor position" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/16).

Untitled Document
TEAM USA PERFORMANCE
GAMES
U.S. MEDALS
OLYMPIC EVENTS
U.S. % OF AVAILABLE MEDALS
'18 Pyeongchang*
8
46
5.8%
'14 Sochi
28
98
9.5%
'10 Vancouver
37
86
14.3%
'06 Turin
25
84
9.9%
'02 Salt Lake City
34
78
14.5%
'98 Nagano
13
68
6.4%
NOTE: 46 of 102 events are complete through Feb. 16
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USA

LOT LEFT TO THE IMAGINATION: USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes after seven days of competition, it is "time to call it like it is: Team USA's effort here has been kind of a flop." Some "bright spots" include the snowboard dominance highlighted by wins for Shaun White, Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, while Chris Mazdzer's "unexpected silver in luge was a delight." The second week could "bring a turnaround" in Pyeongchang. However, with figure skater Nathan Chen's "disastrous short program taking him out of contention, a medal in men's singles is highly unlikely, and the women's singles next week looks like a major longshot, too." Wolken: "The buzz for these Games was flat coming in and is yet to exceed expectations" (USATODAY.com, 2/16). In Memphis, Geoff Calkins notes the disappointing medal return for the U.S. comes despite "sending a whopping 242 athletes to South Korea, the largest team any country has ever sent." Outside of Mazdzer's Silver Medal, the "rest of the American medals are in sports that are at least a decade younger" than the 31-year-old White. Calkins: "We need to invent more sports. ... Or we could just move basketball to the Winter Olympics" (COMMERCIALAPPEAL.com, 2/16).

BLACK FRIDAY: NBC's Craig Melvin notes Friday was a “rough day for some of Team USA’s top athletes,” as skier Mikaela Shiffrin suffered a “stunning setback,” finishing fourth in the women’s slalom. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis also endured “another heartbreaking blow” by finishing fourth in women’s snowboard cross. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie said, “A lot of heartbreak today for the Americans” (“Today,” NBC, 2/16). CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla: “It’s been a rough day here for Team USA ... after a series of strong days on the snowboard.” CNBC’s Courtney Reagan: “Lots of heartbreak. ... Such a bummer” (“Worldwide Exchange,” CNBC, 2/16).

OPPOSITE FEELING IN CANADA: The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson reports Team Canada is on "some kind of roll" midway through Pyeongchang, as the 13 medals so far have the country in "good shape to blow past the 26 medals won on home soil" in 10. Canada "came into these games full of bold talk and lofty predictions," and many people "expected these to be the best-ever Olympics" for the country. However, the team has "lived up to the increased expectations." Surpassing the figures from '10 would be "validation of the way high-performance sport in Canada has been run for the past decade" (NATIONALPOST.com, 2/16).

NBC Sports on Wednesday night delivered its lowest primetime Olympic audience of the Pyeongchang Games since the Opening Ceremony. The net averaged a total audience delivery of 19.2 million viewers on Wednesday across broadcast, cable and digital. NBC alone accounted for 17 million viewers, while NBCSN averaged 1.9 million viewers and NBC Digital had an average minute audience of 237,000 viewers. Coverage on Wednesday night featured men’s alpine skiing (NBC) and pairs free figure skating (NBCSN). Through the first Wednesday, NBC’s total audience delivery is averaging 23 million viewers, still down from the same point of the ’14 Sochi and ’10 Vancouver Games. The addition of cable and digital puts Pyeongchang in front of the average of 21.1 million viewers during the ’06 Turin Games. For NBC alone, primetime is averaging 20.9 million viewers for Pyeongchang (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Boston, Chad Finn writes viewership is "trending in a direction that must satisfy NBC," and the net's coverage has "hit its stride as the Games approach their midpoint." Some of the recent ratings success has been "driven by star power." Monday’s ratings peaked "just after Chloe Kim’s gold medal win in halfpipe," while the net "got its highest ratings in a 15-minute block" on Tuesday when "pairs figure skating as well as a snowboarding competition featuring Shaun White aired" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/16).

WINTER OLYMPICS PRIMETIME VIEWERSHIP ON NBC
NIGHT
DAY
TURIN ('06)
VANCOUVER ('10)
SOCHI ('14)
PYEONGCHANG ('18)
TAD* ('18)
Bonus
Thurs.
n/a
n/a
20,016
15,995
17,249
Opening
Ceremony**
Fri.
22,200
32,641
31,690
27,837
28,286
2
Sat.
23,239
26,189
25,115
21,394
24,159
3
Sun.
23,244
26,372
26,323
22,676
26,201
4
Mon.
21,069
25,224
22,395
20,295
22,341
5
Tue.
18,405
20,330
23,722
20,500
22,600
6
Wed.
17,867
29,416
20,809
17,042
19,157
AVG.
21,109
26,888
24,461
20,931
23,000
NOTES: * = TAD number includes broadcast, cable and digital viewing in primetime. ** = Pyeongchang was first time Opening Ceremony was streamed live (hours before NBC telecast).
Download the
NBC Olympic Primetime

SNAP COUNT: In L.A., Stephen Battaglio notes NBC for the first time is "offering live streaming coverage on a platform other than its own apps," with events such as snowboarder Shaun White's Gold Medal-winning halfpipe performance available on Snapchat. Snap's content deal with NBC "provides stories, clips, short-form programs and Olympic highlights for its audience and splits the ad revenue generated with NBC." The net began its Olympics partnership with Snapchat during the '16 Rio Games in an "effort to tap into" the company's "youthful users." Snapchat's Rio content was "watched by 35 million people, 90% of whom were younger than 35," and its Pyeongchang Games content has "already reached 35 million unique users through just seven days." Snapchat VP/Partnerships Ben Schwerin: "It's a really young audience and obviously an audience that's hard to reach on television. ... Young people are as passionate and interested in the Olympics as they've always been. They are just consuming content on more platforms" (L.A. TIMES, 2/16).

CALL IT LIKE THEY SEE IT: THE RINGER's Katie Baker writes NBC figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have "provided substantive, sparkling insight into the sport that they’ve always lived and breathed." The "beauty of the new NBC broadcast is that it feels like a backstage pass, like a window into the true world of figure skating in all its (sometimes harsh!) splendor." Lipinski and Weir are "not gratuitous in their criticism, and their honesty encompasses raw, giddy excitement as well." While some viewers "bristle at the volume of criticism that Weir and Lipinski provide, they’ve demonstrated that they do know when to hold back" (THERINGER.com, 2/16). USA TODAY's Martin Rogers notes the Lipinski/Weir booth for many viewers is "more of a reason to tune in to the Winter Olympics than the individuals and pairs populating the competition itself." Figure skating "hasn’t boomed since the 1990s and has been left behind by the rapidly evolving media landscape." Weir and Lipinski are "doing their darndest to bring it back" (USA TODAY, 2/16). But in N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes the moment U.S. figure skater Bradie Tennell's music began and she "began to skate for keeps" during the team competition last Saturday, Lipinski "chose to drown the music and diminish the scene with extraneous gab." The "needless commentary was both aggravating and standard for what TV sports analysis has become." NBC’s figure skating coverage has been "heavy with such needless over-the-music word-surplus." Mushnick: "Can’t we ... just watch and, crazy as it seems, just enjoy?" (N.Y. POST, 2/16).

HIGH MARKS: The AP's David Bauder writes the work of Leigh Diffey and Bree Schaaf "bring excitement and historical sweep to their calls" during the skeleton competition. They were "explaining the technicalities without getting lost in them." Similarly, cross-country ski analyst Chad Salmela "made the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle race easier to understand, despite its complexities." He "captured the thrill as he and viewers tried to will Jessica Diggins over the finish line to earn the USA’s first Olympic medal in the sport" (AP, 2/16). 

LIMITED COVERAGE: In N.Y., Choe Sang-Hun notes North Korea’s state-run television as of Friday had "broadcast none of the Games -- a stark contrast to its glorifying coverage of Kim Yo-jong, who visited the South last weekend as a special envoy of her brother, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un." South Korean TV stations historically buy Olympic broadcasting rights "for the entire Korean Peninsula as a matter of principle -- even though they do not broadcast to the North -- because South Korea’s Constitution defines the whole peninsula as its territory." They gave up the rights "for the North to the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, a coalition of broadcasters," for these Games. That group in turn "feeds Olympic broadcasts free of charge." But in the North, TV broadcasting is "limited to a few hours of propaganda-filled programs a day" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16).

Salt Lake City is on pace to regain it mantle as the top-rated U.S. market for NBC’s primetime Olympic coverage. Through Wednesday night, the Utah market is averaging a 23.6 local rating for primetime action on NBC and NBCSN. Salt Lake City led all markets for the ’10 Vancouver Games and ’06 Turin Games, but came in second four years ago in Sochi to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Coming in at No. 2 this year to date is Denver (23.1 rating), which has led all markets on two nights. Rounding out the top five for Pyeongchang are Seattle-Tacoma (20.0), San Diego (19.5), Milwaukee and K.C. (19.4). The Twin Cities have dropped to No. 9 for Pyeongchang to date (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

TOP LOCAL MARKETS FOR NBC/NBCSN PRIMETIME PYEONGCHANG COVERAGE
RANK
MARKET
LOCAL RATING
1
Salt Lake City
23.6
2
Denver
23.1
3
Seattle-Tacoma
20.0
4
San Diego
19.5
5t
Milwaukee
19.4
5t
K.C.
19.4
7
Portland
19.3
8
Sacramento
18.9
9
Minneapolis-St. Paul
18.7
10
West Palm Beach
17.2
11
Austin
17.1
12
Buffalo
17.0
13
L.A.
16.8
14t
Richmond
16.4
14t
DC
16.4
14t
Ft. Myers-Naples
16.4
14t
St. Louis
16.4
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Local NBC Olympic Ratings

WHERE'S THE SPIRIT? The POST-DISPATCH's Dan Caesar notes St. Louis is in a "four-way tie for 14th place nationally" NBC/NBCSN primetime Pyeongchang coverage. This comes after the city finished 22nd four years ago for Sochi. The current ranking also is "well behind the pace of where the market ranked" for the '10 Vancouver Games (6th place) and '06 Turin Games (5th place). But it is a "big rebound" after St. Louis ranked 25th for the Opening Ceremony last week, which was the market's "worst showing in the last four Winter Games." The Olympics also have "surpassed Blues telecasts" on FS Midwest for the "two nights the hockey team was playing at the same time as the Games were being shown" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/16).

Only a couple hundred spectators watched the women's slalom event at a venue with capacity for 6,000
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

POCOG officials claim Olympic ticket sales are within 1% of their target of 90% sold out, but the scene at venues around Pyeongchang "tells a story far different from ... pronouncements of success," according to Tariq Panja of the N.Y. TIMES. Swaths of empty seats have been a "familiar backdrop despite organizers' efforts to fill in gaps by providing volunteers with so-called passion tickets that allow them to attend events and by bringing in school groups by the busload." Fans have been able to "show up right before the start of all but the most popular events and buy a ticket." Gold Medal-winning Norwegian alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal described completing his winning run in the men's downhill on Thursday in front of a "mostly empty grandstand as 'a little bit strange.'" Panja notes the low attendance at the Games may be "partly attributed to the fact that South Korea does not have a culture of alpine sports." Local residents at Games in other countries have "packed venues to watch unfamiliar sports just to be a part of the experience," but that has "not happened here." Empty seats are "not a problem unique to the Pyeongchang Games," as organizers of both the '14 Sochi Games and '16 Rio Games also found themselves "under scrutiny as images of half-empty venues were beamed worldwide." Unused seats "reserved for sponsors and athletes were blamed then." Organizers are "doing the same here." Heightened political tension between North Korea and the U.S. in the "buildup to the Games did not help sales." Occasional ticketing and transportation mix-ups have also "caused venues to fill up only after events in them have started" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16).

PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Martin & Jun note POCOG is "blasting the airwaves with ads, hosting daily K-Pop concerts and asking local schools for help" with filling the empty seats. Local municipalities across Korea have "vacuumed up group tickets and offered them for free to residents." To attract fans, POCOG asked South Korea's Ministry of Interior & Safety, which "handles local-government affairs, to help." City officials is Seoul, which is about 120 miles away from Pyeongchang, said that they have "recently scooped up 42,000 tickets, with 25 local districts receiving batches to distribute on their own." The Seongdong district "recently received 1,800 of the city's tickets and distributed them to underprivileged or socially disadvantaged residents." Seongdong on Sunday will "bus the first group of 300 to a cross-country-skiing event in the Pyeongchang mountains." POCOG claims that no-shows are the "cause of many empty seats, as a significant chunk of tickets are earmarked for athletes, their families and sponsors" (WSJ.com, 2/16).

LACK OF EXCITEMENT: In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes "almost nobody showed up to the Yongpyong Alpine Center" for Friday's women's slalom event. There was a "grand total of 372 spectators, either sitting in the stadium or standing on the snow at the venue." Kiszla: "I know, because I counted each and every one of them. It wasn't difficult." The "nearly empty grandstands at a venue with capacity for 6,000 spectators" gave Mikaela Shiffrin’s quest for a second medal the "vibe of a jayvee football game." Kiszla: "I feel confident in saying: women’s skiing does not churn the locals’ butter. This is not Austria." At women's moguls, when the lone Korean competitor, Seo Jun Hwa, was "eliminated in the first round of the finals, paying customers immediately began streaming for the exits in droves, not caring to see who won the medals" (DENVER POST, 2/16).

Fenlator-Victorian and Russell are Jamaica's first female Winter Olympic competitors
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Beer brand Red Stripe has bought and donated a bobsled to the Jamaica Bobsled & Skeleton Federation "just days ahead of their participation" in the Pyeongchang Games, according to the JAMAICA GLEANER. Coach Sandra Kiriasas on Wednesday "quit the team after a role dispute with the JBSF" and "threatened to take with her, the team's sled, which she said she owned." That led to Red Stripe reaching out via Twitter and offering to "provide a sled as a gift" for the team of Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell. Contact was established on Thursday between Jamaica-based Red Stripe and the JBSF, with bobsled officials "accepting the gift." Red Stripe Senior Marketing Manager for Caribbean Imports Andrew Anguin prior to contacting the JBSF "underlined the value of the gift and noted that the company was open to the possibility of a long term relationship with Jamaican bobsled" after Pyeongchang (JAMAICA GLEANER, 2/16). Anguin is "working with the federation to determine the final price of the sled" (USATODAY.com, 2/16). Fenlator-Victorian and Russell are Jamaica's "first female Winter Olympic competitors," and their participation in the Games comes 30 years "after the men's bobsleigh team made a historic appearance" at the '88 Calgary Games (JAMAICA OBSERVER, 2/16).

Street is part of investor Tony Pritzker's effort to help fund current top U.S. skiers
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Spiraling Olympic training costs have "led athletes to seek funding from all kinds of sources," a need that is "increasingly being met by deep-pocketed individuals who’ve made supporting Olympians into a sort of charitable hobby," according to Devon Pendleton of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Investor Tony Pritzker "began funding top skiers through the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation more than a decade ago, after he became casually acquainted with a few of its executives." Prtizker every February now "organizes an informal gathering of a couple of dozen friends he calls 'the Icemen.'” Each "chips in $10,000 for U.S. Ski & Snowboard and spends the day skiing with former Olympians such as Picabo Street and Phil Mahre." Private donors are "particularly crucial in the U.S., whose Olympic teams receive no government dollars." USSA "receives almost as much from individuals donors as it does from corporate sponsors." To court contributors, the foundation "hosts black-tie galas and offers coveted perks in exchange for donations" Pendleton noted moneyed donors are also "particularly important to competitors in more obscure sports that attract few corporate sponsors" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/15). 

TIME TO TAKE ADVANTAGE: ESPN’s Julie Foudy said many successful Olympic athletes "realize there is a small window for them to gain some notoriety and popularity, and they want to capitalize on that." However, they also "have to balance it ... if they are coming back to do more competition.” U.S. snowboarder Red Gerard "hustled home" to L.A. after winning Gold in the men's slopestyle to make several media appearances before returning to Pyeongchang to compete in Big Air next week. Fellow Gold Medal-wining snowboarder Jamie Anderson also "was considering going back" to L.A. to "capitalize on the window" (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 2/15).

Two Swiss freestyle skiers including Fabian Boesch were the "first athletes confirmed to have been hit" by norovirus at the Pyeongchang Games. The Swiss Olympic team said in a statement that the athletes had "contracted the virus a few days ago but their symptoms had now mostly gone away and could potentially still compete" (REUTERS, 2/15). IOC Communications Dir Mark Adams indicated that the two athletes were "separated from the rest of their team after they were suspected of catching the virus" (KYODO NEWS, 2/16). The norovirus outbreak at the Games has "increased to 244 cases." Investigators "traced the outbreak to contaminated water used in food preparation at the Horeb Youth Center." Fifty-six people "remain under quarantine" (LATIMES.com, 2/15).

TAKE A HIKE: British IOC member Adam Pengilly has been "sent home" following an "altercation with a security guard outside a hotel." The IOC "did not provide full details" on the altercation, but it "noted that an interview with the IOC's ethics and compliance officer took place, leading to Pengilly's removal." The IOC "did not suspend or fire Pengilly." He was "elected by fellow Olympic athletes" to join the IOC's Athletes' Commission in '10, and his membership expires at the end of these Games (USATODAY.com, 2/15).

WANT TO GO SLEDDING? Sam McGuffie, a former RB and track star at Michigan and Rice, is the "latest in a long list notable athletes from other sports to represent the U.S. in bobsled." Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams "were Olympic track stars who re-emerged as Olympic bobsledders" at the '14 Sochi Games, while former collegiate heptathlete Jamie Greubel Poser is the "defending bronze medalist in the two-woman race." The list goes as far back as former NFLer Herschel Walker, who competed in the '92 Albertville Games (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/16).

VETERAN PRESENCE: NBC's Lester Holt is covering his ninth Olympics for the net, and the "Nightly News" host said his favorite Games took place in London in '12. Holt: "Transportation was good. The people were nice, and even the weather was great. It rained every day in the weeks leading up to the opening, but it was beautiful every day after" (L.A. TIMES, 2/15).

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

GOLD: BURTON SNOWBOARDS -- The Olympics do not allow billboards, but Burton has certainly found a way around that. It seems like its logo is on the boards of half the snowboard competitors, giving the company incredible exposure throughout the Games’ first week.

SILVER: FANATICS -- The sports licensing behemoth can barely keep in stock $300 Team USA Nike jackets since gold medals by Chloe Kim and Shaun White, giving it an 80% sales boost in Olympic gear compared to Sochi.

BRONZE: NORWAY CURLERS -- More specifically, the pants worn by Norway’s curlers. Yes, it is the Olympics, but these guys know how to not take things too seriously and have a little fun while competing at the highest level.

TIN: EMPTY SEATS -- Seems like it is a recurring Olympic theme, but large stretches of empty seats even for medal rounds have been an eyesore on TV -- and have to be a concern for organizers heading into the second week.