Women Lead The First Week Of NBC’s Primetime Beijing Olympic Broadcast Coverage

(February 10, 2022) – Women’s sports received more airtime than men’s sports on NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast during Week 1 of the Beijing Winter Games, say James R. Angelini (University of Delaware) and Paul J. MacArthur (Utica College), co-authors of the book Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth.

Through the first 7 nights of coverage, women athletes/sports received almost one hour and 10 minutes more airtime than men athletes/sports. Women received 47.4% of the coverage while men received 41.1% of the coverage; the remainder featured mixed-sex events (11.5%). When mixed sex events are excluded, women’s events have received 53.5% of the coverage as compared to 46.5% for men.

NBC’s primetime focus on women’s sports may be in part due to the distribution of Team USA medals. During the first 7 days, American women won 5 medals, compared to 3 for American men and 1 American team medal in a mixed sex event (team figure skating). “A good barometer for men’s and women’s primetime Olympic broadcast coverage on NBC is the distribution Team USA medals,” says MacArthur. “It’s not a perfect gauge, but it’s a good predictor.”

If the Week 1 trend continues, the Beijing Games would mark the highest percentage of coverage women have ever received on an American primetime Winter Olympic broadcast, dating back to 1994 when the studies began. The only time women received more primetime broadcast television coverage than men during a Winter Olympiad happened with the PyeongChang Games when women received 52.2% of the airtime, compared to 47.8% for men, when mixed-sex events are excluded. Women’s sports have received more NBC primetime broadcast coverage than men’s sports in four out of the past five Olympic Games.

NBC’s Week 1 coverage has focused heavily on figure skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding. A table, with complete sport-by-sport coverage breakdowns, is located here.

The authors will continue to track the amount of coverage men and women athletes receive on NBC’s primetime broadcast of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, with daily updates posted on FiveRingTV.com and via the @FiveRingTV Twitter feed.

In addition to daily updates, the authors will issue a post-Olympic report, with complete sport-by-sport coverage breakdowns.

Contact Information

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, and other outlets.

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Method: The percentage of primetime devoted to men’s, women’s and mixed sex sports was calculated by a single researcher, utilizing a stopwatch and DVR or 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.