Women’s Sports Are Dominating NBC’s Primetime Beijing Olympic Broadcast; NBC’s Coverage Has The Potential To Be Historic

(February 18, 2022) – Women’s sports have dominated NBC’s primetime broadcast of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, according to James R. Angelini (University of Delaware), and Paul J. MacArthur (Utica University, formerly known as Utica College), authors of the book Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth.

Through the first 15 nights, women’s sports received 7 hours and 30 minutes more NBC primetime broadcast coverage than men’s sports. Women received 53.97% of the coverage while men received 33.79% of the coverage; the remainder featured mixed-sex events (12.24%). When mixed sex events are excluded, women have received 61.50% of the coverage, compared to 38.50% for men. Women’s sports received more airtime than men’s sports in 10 of the first 15 nights.

The authors predict women’s sports will have received more total NBC primetime broadcast coverage than men’s sports when the Beijing Games conclude on Sunday. This would mark the second Winter Games in a row where women have received more coverage than men. Women received 52.2% of NBC’s primetime coverage during the PyeongChang Games, compared to 47.8% for men, when mixed-sex events are excluded. Women also received more primetime coverage on NBC than men during the London (2012), Rio (2016) and Tokyo (2020/21) Games.

The Beijing Games will likely mark the largest coverage gap in favor of women on an American primetime Winter Olympic broadcast, when mixed sex sports are excluded, dating back to 1994 when the studies began, unless there is a significant, unexpected change in NBC’s coverage over the next three nights. The largest primetime gap favoring women to date occurred during the recent Tokyo Summer Games when women received 57.95% of NBC’s primetime coverage, compared to 42.05% for men, when mixed sex sports are excluded.

American successes have likely contributed to the amount of women’s sports coverage, as women have won the majority of Team USA’s 21 medals (11 women, 6 men, 4 mixed). “NBC looks for compelling stories and American victories,” says MacArthur. “Team USA women have provided both.”

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, on February 21, 2022.

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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 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.