United States' Lindsey Vonn reacts after skiing out in the women's combined slalom at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Jeongseon, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

A big night for NBC, led by Lindsey Vonn, women's hockey

February 22, 2018 - 3:23 am
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NEW YORK (AP) — Highlights from media coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics:

SLEEPLESS NIGHT: It was an insomniac's quandary. At 1:33 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, Lindsey Vonn was in the starter's gate to decide the final women's skiing competition, with NBC showing the Alpine combined . Meanwhile, the women of Canada and the United States were about to take the ice for sudden-death overtime in the gold-medal hockey game airing on NBCSN. Are the remote control fingers limber enough? Where to turn? The answer was unfortunate for Vonn — she muffed a turn in the slalom portion and her race was over early — but fortunate for viewers who could switch to the hockey game just in time.

HOCKEY TIME: And what a game! The pressure was nearly unbearable through the end of regulation, a scoreless overtime and a shootout decided in the sixth round. The puck wobbled in front of the net before American goaltender Maddie Rooney swatted it away and her teammates swarmed the ice. The best thing for NBC's Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko and Pierre McGuire to do was stay out of the way and let the action talk, and they wisely did so.

BIG NIGHT: NBC may owe Vonn some stock options after the Pyeongchang Games. She helped reignite interest in the Olympics with her bronze-medal performance in the downhill , and returned Wednesday for what had to be NBC's favorite night. American medal winners were everywhere, from the historic first gold in cross-country by the relay team of Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall, high-flyers David Wise and Alex Ferreira in the halfpipe and the bobsled team of Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs. Vonn returned, along with American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin, for their final competition in South Korea. The night before, NBC drew 20.5 million viewers to the network, its cable sister NBCSN and streaming services, making it the first night of the Olympics that they improved upon the ratings for the corresponding night in Sochi four years ago. Getting a bigger audience for any show after four years is an increasingly rare trick in television.

MILES AWAY: It was a splendid, nearly voice-shredding call in the thrilling cross-country race by NBC's Chad Salmela and Steve Schlanger. Even more impressive, it was done from thousands of miles away. They weren't in Pyeongchang, and instead called the race off television monitors from a booth in NBC Sports' facility in Stamford, Connecticut. NBC was ham-fisted in the way it inserted commercials into the race and, particularly for Diggins' final leg, should have aired it straight through.

STOLEN MOMENT: "The Germans steal the gold," said NBC's Leigh Diffey, calling the two-women bobsled competition. No, they won the gold. We understand it would have been a better story for NBC if Taylor and Gibbs had won gold for the U.S. team, but that call was unfair to German bobsledders Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz.

QUOTE: "They're just bouncing around like overcooked noodles." —NBC's Bode Miller, describing how skis were hitting the hard surface in the downhill portion of the women's combined ski event.

WOMEN FIRST: NBC is on the brink of a historic accomplishment: The Pyeongchang Games will mark the first time female athletes have been featured more than men on a U.S. network's prime-time Olympic coverage. That's the prediction from three professors who have been tracking the gender breakdown of coverage for each Olympics since 1994. It's a turnaround not just from tradition but from the first 10 nights of Pyeongchang telecasts, when men had a clear edge. That was erased with the focus on American skiers Vonn and Shiffrin, and the trend is likely to continue with women's figure skating a big feature of the second week. Women have won a majority of Team USA's medals so far. While not perfect, "it's clear that NBC's Olympic coverage is leading any advancement for women athletes," said Andrew Billings, a University of Alabama professor who conducts the study with James Angelini of the University of Delaware and Paul MacArthur of Utica College.

CURLING HUMOR: U.S. curler Matt Hamilton exasperated NBC's Trenni Kusnierek when she asked how the team would be able to beat the feared Canadians in their next match. "Make more shots than they do," he said.

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