Instead of laughing off or owning up to making a wrong call the night before in the women’s super-G, NBC’s ski announcers seemed intent on justifying themselves Saturday night. In that Alpine race, little-known Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic stunned everyone by edging Austria’s Anna Veith for the gold medal. Ledecka, ranked No. 43 in the world, was considered to have so little chance that NBC’s Dan Hicks declared Veith the winner and NBC switched away as if the race was over. But it wasn’t. Returning to the subject a night later, Bode Miller declared that ”in everyone’s opinion, the race was over. It was one of the most incredible upsets I’ve seen in any sport.” Hicks noted that even Ledecka couldn’t believe she had won. ”Neither could we,” he said. Under the circumstances, producers had made a reasonable call to move on to a compelling figure-skating competition. But it was still wrong for Hicks to have expressed certainty that the race was over, and the way he and Miller revisited it Saturday only served to annoy viewers who had missed the miracle on snow.
We’re convinced NBC’s Leigh Diffey can narrate a Monday morning commute to work and make it sound thrilling and history-making. He and analyst Bree Schaaf turned the women’s skeleton competition into high drama. ”Lizzy Yarnold proves she is an Olympic legend,” Diffey said of Britain’s two-time gold-medal winner. He and Schaaf are a breakout team.
During the U.S.-Russia hockey game, analyst Mike Milbury described Slava Voynov’s expulsion from the NHL after being jailed for kicking and choking his wife as an ”unfortunate incident” that hurt the Los Angeles Kings. His choice of words earned NBC some online criticism for insensitivity. Milbury, in a statement, said his intention was to discuss the impact of the incident on hockey after partner Kenny Albert outlined the domestic violence charges. ”As I said at the time he was suspended, the league made the right call, 100 percent,” he said.
The 19.2 million people who watched the Olympics on NBC, NBCSN or on streaming services Friday was identical to the 19.2 million NBC viewers for the corresponding night in Sochi in 2014. In today’s television world, that’s a victory. The Nielsen company said 16.6 million people watched NBC alone on Friday. NBC notes that the dominance of Olympic coverage over other things on TV is unmatched; on Friday, competitors ABC, CBS and Fox combined reached just 8.1 million viewers.