Men dominated NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast television coverage by more than a 3:1 margin on Saturday, February 17, 2018.
NBC focused on men’s alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, short track, ski jumping, and an interview with the American men’s figure skaters. There were a number of other men’s sports with one minute or less of coverage. On the women’s side skeleton, short track speed skating and two minutes of alpine skiing drove the coverage. All other women’s sports generated less than a minute each. The pairs content came from promos for the ice dancing competition that starts Sunday night.
The distribution of NBC’s Olympic coverage on Saturday night 77.60% for men’s events, while women’s events received 22.02% of the broadcast. The mixed pair event promo accounted for 0.38% of the broadcast.
When mixed pair events are excluded, the percentages were 77.90% for men and 22.10% for women.
Marit Bjørgen added a gold medal to her collection, her 13th medal overall, tying the record held by fellow Norwegian, Ole Einar Bjørndalen, as the most decorated Winter Olympian in history and breaking the record for most Olympic medals by a cross country skier. The historic accomplishment, however, did not result in significant airtime from NBC. Her feat was mentioned, briefly, during the primetime broadcast as cross country skiing received 28 seconds of coverage. She was not, however, the subject of a feature, nor was she interviewed.
Such minimal coverage has been par for the course. When the Norwegian Cross Country became the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history earlier in the PyeongChang Games, her accomplishment received a very brief mention on NBC’s Saturday February 10, 2018 primetime broadcast. No feature. No interview.
On Thursday night, Bjørgen’s 12th medal was acknowledged on NBC’s primetime broadcast within a 27 second discussion of Norway’s dominance in cross country skiing. Bjørgen’s feats have historically received little primetime broadcast coverage in previous Olympiads, and this history making medal was no exception. She was not the subject of a feature, nor was she interviewed on Thursday night’s broadcast.
As such, Marit Bjørgen remains a largely invisible record setter on NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast.
These figures will be updated to include a running total of percentages for men’s and women’s events soon.
Regular updates about NBC’s coverage of men and women athletes will be posted throughout the 2018 Winter Games on FiveRingTV.com. A mid-Olympic report, with complete sport-by-sport coverage breakdowns, will be issued on February 18.
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* The percentage of primetime devoted to men’s, women’s and mixed sex sports was calculated by a single researcher, utilizing a stopwatch and DVD time codes, measuring (to the millisecond) the total amount of time devoted to each event. Any time spent at the actual athletic site, on a profile about an athlete, promos about a specific athlete or sport, and host commentary about a specific sport or athlete was recorded. Split screens combining commercials and live coverage are included in the calculation, but commercial breaks are not included. The NBC broadcast network East Coast feed was used for this calculation. Olympic coverage on cable networks and live streaming was not included. Network overruns beyond 11:00pm up to the break for local news are included within this calculation.
Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth contains a detailed 20-year examination of how male and female athletes have been covered within primetime Olympic broadcasts. The book also has analyses of how race/ethnicity and nationality impact Olympic coverage, interviews with NBC personnel about the content and production of Olympic broadcasts, and an overview of Olympic television history. Published by Routledge, it is available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com, the Routledge website, The Bookstore Plus, and other outlets.