Could Women Athletes Receive The Majority of Primetime Television Coverage for the First Time in a Winter Olympiad?
(February 21, 2018) – Coverage of women athletes is dominating the final week of NBC’s primetime broadcast* of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, according to Andrew C. Billings (University of Alabama), James R. Angelini (University of Delaware), and Paul J. MacArthur (Utica College), authors of the book Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth.
After featuring male athletes 3 hours and 40 minutes more than female athletes through the first 10 nights of primetime broadcast coverage, the shift toward female athletes and sports has been dramatic. What was a 15.6 percent gap favoring men will have been entirely eliminated in three subsequent nights of heavy women’s coverage. Moreover, sources inside NBC expect the trend to continue to the point that, for the first time since analyses began in 1994, women athletes are projected to receive the majority of the clocktime in a primetime Winter Olympic television broadcast.
American medal successes could be aiding the women’s coverage, as women have won the majority of Team USA’s 15 medals (8 women, 5 men, 2 mixed). The schedule also inherently moved toward highlighting female athletes and sports with, most notably, ladies figure skating occurring in the later days of the Games. Still, the finding—particularly in a Winter Olympiad—is noteworthy as the gender gap has been wide (sometimes more than 20%) in previous Winter Games. The Sochi Games marked the closest an American primetime broadcast had come to equal coverage (52.3% men; 47.7% women excluding paired/mixed events) and it now appears the coverage in PyeongChang could result in women receiving more airtime than men.
NBC had signaled a marketing plan focusing on women athletes, as three of the five Olympians they heavily promoted before the Games were women (Mikeala Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, Chloe Kim) and 53 percent of the athletes invited to NBC’s pre-Olympic West Hollywood promotional shoot were women. This promotion of female athletes and sports didn’t result in women receiving more coverage in the first 10 nights, but may be emerging now.
The authors will post regular updates tracking NBC’s coverage of men and women athletes throughout the 2018 Winter Games on FiveRingTV.com.
- Andrew C. Billings: email@example.com, (205) 348-8658, @andrewcbillings
- James R. Angelini: firstname.lastname@example.org, (302) 831-7210
- Paul J. MacArthur: email@example.com, (315) 733-5185, @PaulMacArthur
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.
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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.