Women received more coverage than men by a 3 to 2 margin on NBC’s primetime Olympic television broadcast February 21, 2018.
On the men’s side, NBC focused on alpine skiing and freestyle skiing halfpipe with each sport clocking in more than 20 minutes. The only other men’s sport featured was bobsled at just 23 seconds when Mike Tirico commented on the impact of Steve Holcomb’s death on the USA bobsled team. On the women’s side alpine skiing, bobsled, and cross country skiing had significant amounts coverage. Beyond these, there were eight other sports that were seen anywhere from 1 second in a montage to just over 2 minutes.
The distribution of NBC’s Olympic coverage on Wednesday night was 60.03% for women’s events, while men’s events received 39.97% of the broadcast. There were no mixed pair events aired.
When mixed pair events are excluded, the percentages were the same: 60.03% for women and 39.97% for men.
Marit Bjørgen became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time when she collected her 14th medal on Wednesday in the cross country team sprint. Throughout the PyeongChang Games, Bjørgen has received very little attention on NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast, despite a series of record setting accomplishments this Olympiad. Wednesday was no exception. While the women’s team sprint received 14 minutes and 36 seconds of coverage, NBC’s focus was on Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall, who became the first Americans ever to win gold in a cross country Olympic event. Their accomplishments marked only the second time a Team USA athlete won an Olympic medal in cross country. As such, while NBC gave cross country skiing exponentially more coverage than it normally does in primetime – with significant time spent on the race – the emphasis was on Diggins and Randall, who were interviewed after the event. While Bjørgen was mentioned, and shown during the race, she was not interviewed, nor was there a feature on her record setting accomplishment.
After 14 nights, women have received more coverage than men on NBC’s primetime Olympic television broadcast. Based on information provided by NBC, it is predicted that this trend will continue and that women will likely end up with more primetime coverage than men in PyeongChang. Such an occurrence would be historic as women have never received more primetime coverage than men in a Winter Olympiad, dating back to 1994 when the studies began.
Regular updates about NBC’s coverage of men and women athletes will be posted throughout the 2018 Winter Games on FiveRingTV.com. A final report will be issued after the Games conclude.
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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.