(February 26, 2018) NBC’s primetime broadcast coverage of women athletes during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games was historic, 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.
Women received more primetime broadcast television coverage than men for the first time in a Winter Olympiad, dating back to 1994 when the studies began. This event is particularly noteworthy as the gender gap has generally been wider – sometimes more than 20% – in the Winter Games than the Summer Games.
Women received 43.2% of the primetime coverage, compared to 39.6% for men and 17.2% for mixed pair events.
When mixed pair events are excluded, women received 52.2% of the coverage compared to 47.8% for men.
The proportion of primetime coverage, when mixed pair events are excluded, is also the third highest ever for women in any Olympiad studied.
During the first 10 nights of the Games, men received more coverage than women by almost a 3 to 2 margin.
Over the next three nights, women’s coverage overtook the men’s, erasing a 15.6 percent gap with three nights of heavy women’s programming. The heavy tilt towards women athletes, combined with information provided by NBC, led the authors to predict women would receive more primetime coverage than men in PyeongChang.
Days 11-15, NBC’s focused more on women by a more than 4 to 1 margin. This dramatic shift resulted in women receiving 55.23% of the total coverage when mixed pairs are excluded through the first 15 nights. More men’s coverage on nights 16 and 17 moved the number closer to 50%, with women regaining some ground on the last night.
The distribution of American Olympic medals likely played a role in the coverage as women won the majority of Team USA medals (12 women, 11 men, 2 pair).
The final result is women receiving the 3rd highest proportion of primetime coverage in any Olympiad studied, including the 1994 and 1998 Games carried by CBS.
A complete table providing the exact amount of time NBC has devoted to each sport, with breakouts by athlete sex, during the its PyeongChang primetime Olympic broadcast is posted here.
Night by night breakouts are posted throughout FiveRingTV.com
- Andrew C. Billings: firstname.lastname@example.org, (205) 348-8658, @andrewcbillings
- James R. Angelini: email@example.com, (302) 831-7210
- Paul J. MacArthur: firstname.lastname@example.org, (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.