NBC's Olympic Coverage: Highlights And Lowlights So Far

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From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK — A look at NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics:

NIGHTLY NEWS: Considering NBC was broadcasting 10 hours, 25 minutes of Olympics material on Sunday, it seemed odd to turn on NBC’s “Nightly News” to see so much about the Olympics.

Brian Williams anchored from Vancouver and led the broadcast with a nearly five-minute summary of Olympics news, including a report on Saturday night’s race by speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno that covered the same ground as one done by Al Michaels on NBC an hour earlier. There was a meaty report by Chris Jansing on the aftermath of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death. Later in the newscast Lester Holt profiled Ohno and there was a feature about American Alpine skiers training on bicycles in the desert.

Williams did not ignore other news, but it was clear the world according to NBC was dominated Sunday by the Olympics.

The “CBS Evening News” led with a report on the offensive in Afghanistan and the shooting at an Alabama college; it had less than two minutes of Olympics news wrapped into a single report. “World News” on ABC led with Sunday’s bickering between Vice President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Dick Cheney, and the Afghanistan story. David Muir did an Olympics wrap-up.

“The eyes of the world are on Vancouver,” said NBC News spokeswoman Lauren Kapp. “In every broadcast we produce, we select what we feel best reflects the news of the day. The level of our coverage is completely appropriate for what is the biggest international planned event of the year.”

No one would say the Olympics aren’t news; NBC’s ratings attest to public interest in the games. And if NBC News can be accused of hyping Olympics news, it could also be argued that ABC and CBS don’t want to play it up to give its rival more attention.

But anyone who wanted a brief respite from the Olympics to watch Williams explore the rest of the world didn’t have much chance Sunday.

HIGHLIGHT: Bob Costas. His smooth work Sunday deserves mention, since hosts are so easily taken for granted. Costas offered a moving tribute to Kumaritashvili. Sharing the story of an American pairs skater competing against his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day was inspiring. And he let American skier Hannah Kearney narrate a tape of her gold medal moguls run, then drily noted her obvious audition for the 2014 Olympics broadcasting team.

LOWLIGHT: The prime-time profile of Ohno already felt like a repeat – on the third night of the Olympics.

RATINGS: For a second straight night, the Olympics were a hit. Saturday’s telecast, which featured Ohno’s silver medal performance and Kearney capturing the country’s first gold medal in Vancouver, was seen by 26.2 million people, according to the Nielsen Co.

That was more than any night of NBC’s coverage in Turin, Italy, four years ago.

Those ratings are particularly heartening to NBC considering figure skating, generally the most popular event for TV viewers, hadn’t started yet. Saturday also tends to be the least-watched night of television each week, and NBC’s coverage was padded because the postponement of a men’s Alpine skiing event unexpectedly left the network with time to fill.

NORDIC: Al Trautwig and Chad Salmela brought appropriate enthusiasm to the exciting Nordic combined finish, where silver medalist Johnny Spillane was the first American ever to earn a medal in this event. We did enjoy this Trautwig remark: “If you’ve been a longtime Nordic combined Olympics watcher, you can’t believe what you’re seeing.” Yes, both of you.

SWEET SHOT: Ending the prime-time broadcast with the picture of Canadian gold medalist Alexandre Bilodeau hugging his brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was lovely.

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