With the Winter Olympics launching this week, NBC is betting its Pyeongchang rights fee of $963 million that its saturation coverage of the two-week-plus event will pay off. The AP notes that a few skiing and figure skating events will take place Thursday, while most of the action for U.S. viewers gets under way Friday.
“NBC will stream the Olympic opening ceremony from Pyeongyang live early Friday in the United States, then repeat it that evening for television viewers with Mike Tirico and Katie Couric as hosts,” the report notes.
The story adds: “Tirico, formerly of ESPN, replaces Bob Costas as host of NBC’s prime-time coverage and already he’s being asked to put in more hours. For the first time, NBC will air its evening coverage live across the country, meaning the broadcast that starts at 8 p.m. on the East Coast starts at 5 p.m. out West. With a half-hour break for local news, Tirico will stay on the air each evening until 2 a.m. Eastern time, coinciding with the end of prime-time out West.”
But will anyone be watching? The Winter Games are always a harder sell than the Summer Olympics, and the distant South Korea location could tend to dampen interest. The AP quotes Ashwin Navin, CEO of TV analytics firm Samba TV, saying: “It definitely feels like it’s more quiet, more subdued, than previous Olympic seasons.”
While advertisers are said to be relatively unenthusiastic, NBC estimates it has already booked more than $900 million in national advertising, the AP notes.
“NBC believes the time zone difference will serve the American audience well,” the report adds. “Since prime evening viewing time coincides with daylight hours in South Korea, it means more live events than usual when most viewers are available.”
Among the lineup changes, the team of Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir take over as lead analysts on figure skating, replacing stalwarts Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic. Former Olympic skier Bode Miller and speed skater Joey Cheek are also aboard as analysts.
“NBC will add a couple of left-field choices for cultural correspondents in race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Momofuku restaurant founder David Chang,” the AP notes.
The report adds: “NBC’s prime-time coverage is the window through which most Americans experience the Olympics, but it’s only a fraction of what is offered. All the competition will be streamed online, and coverage is also available on the NBCSN sports cable network, CNBC, USA and the Olympic Channel. NBCSN even airs different Olympics coverage during prime time and, coupled with the online options, gives couch-bound viewers the chance for a multi-screen experience.”