Highlights from coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics:
LOOKING AT ASHLEY: One of the most scrutinized Olympic moments over the weekend had more to do with lip-reading than athletic competition. TiVo said that the one moment people rewound their DVRs to watch more than any other on Saturday night was when unhappy American skater Ashley Wagner looked at the scoreboard to find her scores after skating to Pink Floyd. She wasn’t pleased. Her one-word response looked about as sour as her expression. Facebook also said Sunday that Wagner was one of the most talked-about subjects on the popular social media site over the weekend. Facebook’s most discussed topic, however, was the moguls performance of Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, who took gold and silver.
RATINGS: An estimated 25.1 million people watched NBC’s prime-time Olympics coverage on Saturday night. That’s the biggest Saturday night audience in February for a broadcast network since the Vancouver Winter Games of 2010. The audience is down from the 26.2 million people who watched the comparable Saturday night coverage four years ago. The first Saturday in Turin eight years ago, when the time difference also prevented live prime-time events, was 23.2 million.
MOMS: Seeing American gold medal slopestyle winner Jamie Anderson in a commercial right after she is shown clinching the medal feels cheap, like hearing a song being used as an advertising jingle while it’s still at the top of the charts. No doubt NBC was paid handsomely for the spot, but it doesn’t do the network any favors, either. Instead, it reminds viewers they are seeing a canned TV show instead of a sporting event. When it’s considered a weakness that the time zone difference doesn’t allow for any live competition in prime-time, hard to understand why you would want to underline the point.
FEATHER DOWN: Yes, the strength and athletic skill required of Olympic-caliber ice dancers is undeniable. But it’s that much harder to take seriously as a sports event when two Russian skaters have a point deducted from their performance because a feather from the woman’s costume fluttered to the ice. It seemed unremarkable to NBC analyst Johnny Weir, who just came from that world, but kudos to Terry Gannon for not letting the inherent ridiculousness of the moment slip past.
BIG BEN: As if it wasn’t scary enough, the NBC Sports Network graphic that compared the height of the ski jump with Big Ben and the length competitors are airborne with a football field effectively illustrated the sheer nuttiness – oops, we mean bravery – of the athletes who participate in this sport.
CONGRATS: American female medal winners stick together. Gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, silver medal-winning skier Julia Mancuso and silver medal-winning snowboarder Hannah Teter all tweeted congratulations to Anderson for winning gold. Tweeted Teter: “You are a boss!!”
ICE BOX: It might take NBC’s Mary Carillo until May to thaw out from her visit to Siberia for a travelogue. Enjoyable for viewers, though maybe not for her, since she stood out on a snow-covered tundra when it was 43 degrees below zero. The report did feel a little airbrushed, however. For generations the idea of being “sent to Siberia” was fearsome and deadly enough to cause shudders halfway across the world, and that history deserved some examination.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT: “The NBC Olympic coverage of Siberia looks more like Chicago than I feel comfortable with.”
GOLD ZONE: The “Gold Zone” is rapidly becoming the most popular element of NBC’s digital package. Modeled after the “Red Zone” NFL show that distills big moments in football games as they happen, the “Gold Zone” rapidly whips fans from venue to venue during the day for live competition.
CROSS COUNTRY: The competitors lost their breath, and Chad Salmela nearly lost his voice analyzing the long-distance cross country skiing race. Give him credit, though, for bringing excitement to an event that was – to most people outside northern Europe – a bunch of unpronounceable names darting through the woods.
UPCOMING: Competing in the super combined, American Mancuso attempts to win her fourth Olympic medal on Monday.