For the Winter Paralympics 2018, NBC is airing a record 250 hours coverage, the most ever for a Paralympic Winter Games. Here's what to expect from the broadcast.

By Richard Deitsch
March 07, 2018

If you have never viewed it, the greatest commercial advertisement for a sporting event I’ve ever seen ran on Channel 4 (U.K.) prior to the 2012 London Paralympics. The spot was titled “Meet The Superhumans” and along with winning industry awards, the campaign helped raised awareness and understanding of disability in sport. You can also draw a direct line from that advertising campaign to the London Paralympics becoming the first Paralympic Games to sell out. After viewing the commercial, it is impossible not to be interested in the Paralympics.

Lost amid the fervor of March Madness, the endless NFL Draft coverage and NBA and NHL late-season games, the Paralympics begins Friday from PyeongChang, South Korea. To its credit, NBC is airing a record 250 hours of coverage, including 94 hours on television, the most ever for a Paralympic Winter Games, nearly doubling Sochi 2014 (50 hours). The Opening Ceremony will air live on Friday at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN, and NBC Olympics will air competition coverage through March 18 across NBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, and the NBC Sports app. There are 49 countries competing, plus the neutral group of athletes from Russia. Team USA will compete in each of the sports with an estimated team of 70+ athletes.

“What we want to do is to make sure we are doing justice to the sports and the stories of the athletes, much in the same way we do for the Olympics because we think our Olympics coverage is successful and really resonates with people,” said Lena Glaser, who has served as the lead producer for NBC’s Paralympics coverage since 2012. “I use that as the basis but then on top of that, the Paralympics offers us an opportunity to do things as its own entity, which involves a lot of things like explaining classifications. There is more of a responsibility that we feel to discuss the backstories of these athletes because people will naturally have questions about how they came to be here. So we start with our Olympic storytelling philosophy. Then similar to knowing that we deal with people who don’t view certain Olympic sports all the time, we want to make sure we are educating as much as possible without ever being condescending to the audience who are familiar with these sports.”

The coverage of the Paralympics includes six winter sports—alpine skiing, snowboarding, sled hockey, wheelchair curling, cross-country skiing, and biathlon. For the Rio Paralympics, NBC partnered with LEXI, a U.K.-based company that provides classification graphics for para-sporting events. LEXI builds and creates animation to explain the Paralympics sports and why the athletes are competing in a particular event. This is the first time NBC is working for LEXI for a Winter Paralympics. Glaser said NBC’s commentators—some of whom are Paralympians—will also help viewers with the classifications.

NBC said it is working with Descriptive Video Works to provide video description services for viewers with visual disabilities watching coverage. (According to NBC: Video description is the use of short verbal descriptions of action or key video scenes to add context to programing for individuals with a visual disability. Descriptive Video Works specialists, with years of sportscaster experience, will precisely and vividly describe key elements of NBC’s coverage of the Games and sports as they unfold. This narration provides a description of key visuals like actions, facial expressions, clothing, event locations and on-screen graphics.)

Glaser is coming off serving as the producer for NBC’s daytime coverage of PyeongChang Games (hosted by Rebecca Lowe) as well as the daily show hosted by Jimmy Roberts that ran on the Olympic Channel. It was the eighth Olympics she has worked for NBC Sports. She and her production team will be based in Stamford, Ct. for the Paralympics given they have a setup in place. There’s also naturally some cost savings involved.

“Because NBC does so much Olympics stuff from home we have this footprint that is ready,” she said. “It is lot easier for us to be working in our own space.”

There is some talent, however, onsite in PyeongChang. Longtime Olympics reporter Lewis Johnson, who will work his third consecutive Paralympic Games for NBC Olympics; two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann and 2006 U.S. Olympic ice dance silver medalist Tanith White. That trio will cover events at different venues.

The talent staffing for the Paralympics is much lower than the Olympics given there are less sports and athletes. NBC has 12 play-by-play commentators, analysts and reporters assigned, including Carolyn Manno, who has hosted NBC Olympics’ coverage of the Paralympics Games twice before. The play-by-play commentators—including Todd Harris, Jason Knapp and Steve Schlanger— have experience calling previous Paralympics. Chris Vosters will make his Paralympic debut, serving as play-by-play commentator for coverage of wheelchair curling. The breakdown of commentators is as follows:


Todd Harris, play-by-play
Chris Waddell, analyst


Todd Harris, play-by-play
Tina Dixon, analyst


Jason Knapp, play-by-play
Taylor Lipsett, analyst


Chris Vosters, play-by-play
Pete Fenson, analyst


Steve Schlanger, play-by-play
Kelly Underkofler, analyst


Steve Schlanger, play-by-play
Kelly Underkofler, analyst

Glaser said there will certainly be a focus on American athletes but NBC has done some long-form profiles on global athletes including Joany Badenhorst, a champion snowboarder from Australia. In Sochi, the Russians dominated the medal count.

“This event contains the potential for people in this country to look at disability and disability in sport in particular,” Glaser said. “It is one of the greatest opportunities I have to work in programming that can actually have an impact on the way people see the world. We don’t always get to do that.”

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