NBC defends its Olympic strategy
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Each morning here at 7:30, inside a compound at the International Broadcasting Center roughly the size of Belarus, NBC Olympics Chairman
Protect the primetime show.
"It's no secret: the primetime show is the flagship" said
And that is where ratings come in because primetime is where the eyes are. NBC has averaged 26 million viewers for the first 10 nights of the Olympics, up 27 percent from Turin. It's 14.5 national rating for primetime (each rating point equals about 1 percent of the 114.9 million US television households) is well ahead of Turin but below Salt Lake and Nagano. The highlights from Vancouver include beating
As part of an avalanche of emails NBC Sports sends journalists daily (my inbox thanks you, NBC), the network passed along a metered market breakdown by time zone. The best ratings are coming in the Mountain Time Zone, followed by the Pacific, Central and Eastern. Milwaukee (22.8), Denver (22.7) and Salt Lake City (22.4) are the three highest rated markets. On Sunday 8.22 million viewers watched USA-Canada hockey game on MSNBC, just behind the network's alltime viewership record (8.23M), which came in Nov. 2008 for its presidential election coverage.
"Things so far have been amazing," said Neal. "This kind of ride that we are on, there has been an insatiable appetite for these Olympics from the American television viewers."
The columns above offer fair criticisms, and NBC executives are well aware of the complaints. (For instance, some West Coast viewers were irate about the Czech Republic-Russia men's hockey game not being shown live Sunday morning on NBC: An NBC spokesperson told SI.com, "For the most part, all NBC (daytime, primetime, late night) is tape delayed in Mountain Time and Pacific Time. All cable (CNBC, MSNBC, USA) is live regardless of time zone." Each day NBC Sports communication officials provide its executives with packets on all that has written about the Games. Thus,
"I don't even worry about giving it a rating in my head," Neal said. "We believe in what we are doing here. The amount of time and effort that we put into preparing for the Olympic Games surpasses anything that I've been around. We have the strength in our convictions. We believe in what we are doing. We believe in the way that we present the Olympic Games. And I think the ratings back us up."
In other words, expect the same thing. This is Neal's ninth Olympics, and much of NBC's key staff has enormous institutional knowledge of the Games, as well as an Ebersolian self-belief they are doing things correctly. Things have also broken very well for them in Vancouver. Like Beijing, where NBC rode the long arms of
Neal praised his on-air talent, and mentioned
One thing Neal reiterated was that NBC does not broadcast the action through a red, white and blue lens. Last Thursday the network was criticized by a
Canada's CTV, which most Olympic journalists are watching in Vancouver, presents events live (TSN and Rogers Sportsnet are also art of the Canadian Olympic broadcasting group). Broadcasting its first Olympics in 22 years, CTV has done good work, though it is far more jingoistic than NBC, occasionally to the point of silliness. CTV pays a fraction of the cost that NBC does and has less domestic competition going against it at night. Neal said he considers CTV a partner, not a competitor, and the two networks often share camera positions and athlete profiles.
With seven days of programming left, Neal said he thinks ski cross could emerge as a viewer favorite during NBC's final week of coverage. The women's event airs Tuesday. "It's the only new sport on the program this time around," Neal said. "I've seen it in non-Olympic competitions and I think it has some of the same appeal snowboardcross has. There are many countries that have very good athletes in it so I think the competition will be pretty fierce. It's a very good visual event for television."