Super Bowl, Olympics Add Up To Big Winter For NBC

The suits at NBC are suiting up for some exotic winter travel.

First, they will head to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII this coming Sunday (February 4). The big game is on NBC this year.

Minneapolis in February isn't very exotic, but the stadium has a dome and the NBC suits are sure to be cozy, warm and well-fed in their catered, luxury boxes. Nothing wrong with that -- these are the perks of working in big-time TV, and have been since time immemorial.

Then, in a matter of just a few days, many of them will be off to South Korea, a much more exotic destination, for the two-week-plus Winter Olympics starting on Thursday, February 8.

The Games will dominate the schedules on myriad NBC-owned TV channels and digital platforms through Saturday, February 25.



There is a 14-hour time difference between the Olympic site in PyeongChang and the eastern United States (PyeongChang time is 14 hours ahead of the eastern U.S.)

NBC is saying that the time difference will allow for many of the Games’ most popular events to air live in the United States in prime time and other dayparts (at least in the east and possibly other U.S. time zones as well).

The network addressed this issue in a recent press release, probably because the subject of live vs. taped Olympics coverage has long been something viewers (and TV critics) talk about.

The chatter is frequently negative as it begins to become apparent over the two weeks of Olympics coverage that the network is giving more airtime to up-close-and-personal profiles (and other fluff) of the American athletes and not enough to actual competition. Commercial loads can be hefty and intrusive as well.

In the past, NBC has often talked up its intention to air more live events than ever before. But then, when the Games finally arrive, it still often seems as if live events are getting short shrift. This might not even be true, in fact, but if this is what viewers perceive then perception is reality.

As a journalist on the television beat, I have written more than my fair share of Olympics TV columns. Some of them were negative -- reflecting the feedback I would hear from viewers about the live-coverage issue and the personal profiles of athletes.

I tended to agree with those who complained about the profiles because, to be perfectly candid, they often come across as time-wasting mush.

The main themes are often all the same: Each athlete is seen practicing their talent for ice skating at a very young age in the pre-dawn hours.

Then the point is hammered home that each of them had to work hard to get where they are today. This is certainly true but not exactly news; getting to the Olympics takes hard work.

More often, however, the Olympics -- whether summer or winter -- come in for praise for the sheer effort it takes to bring all the action home.

Network sports in general (football, baseball, basketball) has long represented the pinnacle of television's ability to marshal its best resources -- capital, people and technology -- to take viewers at home to places they cannot go themselves.

The fact that sports events such as NFL and Major League baseball games are broadcast live hundreds of times a year with almost no mistakes or missed angles on plays is a testament to the high standards in sports television that are met so consistently that most of us take them for granted.

With their many events and often far-flung locations, the Olympics are particularly challenging to wrangle, but our TV networks have wrangled them very well for decades (first ABC, then some on CBS for a time and now -- and for the last couple of Olympics cycles -- NBC).

By now, the Olympics on TV should be largely complaint-resistant. Rather than complaining about them, let's all try and enjoy them.

But first, there's Super Bowl Sunday -- also courtesy of NBC. Today is only Monday, but here is a reminder to get your cheesesteak orders in early for the big game -- also known as Eagles Bowl ’18.

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