Women received more than double the men’s coverage during NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast on Sunday, July 25, 2021.
Swimming, where Team USA added 2 more medals via the US men’s gold in the 4×100 freestyle relay and Katie Ledecky’s silver in the 400 freestyle, received the most overall airtime. Men’s swimming clocked in at just over 43 minutes of coverage, while women’s swimming scored just over 51 minutes of airtime.
NBC also devoted 20 minutes and 6 seconds to men’s triathlon, where American Kevin McDowell was in contention for a medal. He placed 6th, the highest ever for an American man. During the 17-night Rio Games broadcast, where no Team USA men were in medal contention, NBC devoted 6 seconds of primetime to men’s triathlon.
The largest segment of women’s coverage was dedicated to women’s gymnastics, which received more than one hour and 18 minutes of airtime. Women’s beach volleyball and softball each also had at least one minute of content.
Though no other sport received at least one minute of airtime, NBC did dedicate 20 seconds to women’s taekwondo, as Featherweight Anastasija Zolotic earned Team USA’s first ever gold medal in the sport. During the 2016 Rio Games, where Team USA’s Jackie Galloway won bronze in the heavyweight division, NBC dedicated two seconds of its entire primetime broadcast to taekwondo.
Overall, men’s events received 32.30% of the coverage on Sunday night, compared to 67.70% for women. Mixed sex events did not receive any coverage.
After three days, when mixed sex events are excluded, men have received 41.57% of the total coverage, compared to 58.43% for women.
Regular updates about NBC’s coverage of men and women athletes will be posted throughout the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games on FiveRingTV.com. Additional updates will be posted on the @FiveRingTV Twitter feed. A mid-Olympic report, with complete sport-by-sport coverage breakdowns, will also be issued on July 30.
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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 or DVR 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. 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 the calculations.
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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 a detailed overview of Olympic television history. Published by Routledge, it is available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com, the Routledge website, and other outlets.