Highlights from coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics:
RATINGS: Despite taking on zombies, Beatles and British aristocrats, the Olympics held up well on television Sunday for NBC with 26.3 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company. That’s almost level with the 26.4 million who watched the equivalent night in Vancouver four years ago. Often, rival networks essentially give in against the Olympics, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. AMC’s ”The Walking Dead” returned from a hiatus with its second biggest audience ever, 15.8 million, and beat the Olympics among young viewers. CBS aired a special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ performance on Ed Sullivan, and reached 14 million. PBS’ ”Downton Abbey” had 6.7 million viewers.
INSPIRATION: The story of Canadian moguls gold medalist Alex Bilodeau and his older brother with cerebral palsy is an inspiring one, superbly told in an extended feature in prime time. Yet the line between inspiration and exploitation can be fine, and it felt like NBC walked over it with repeated pictures of Frederic cheering from the sideline. The point was well made, no need to keep hammering it home.
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LINGERING LOOKS: American skier Julia Mancuso is an attractive woman. Her ”up close and personal” segment established that, and not much more.
NO LINGERING LOOK: The Dutch medal sweep in speed skating was packed with great stories: twin brothers earning gold and bronze with their proud, no doubt conflicted, parents watching from the stands, and an overturned result that turned silver into gold and vice versa. Good that NBC featured the race – remember that when anyone says all they worry about is Americans – yet they switched away so quickly it proved unsatisfying.
DAFT POLICE: The tale of the Russian police choir shows how quickly public tastes can prove a television production decision wrong. NBC ignored the uniformed singers taking on Daft Punk’s ”Get Lucky” during its broadcast Friday. Yet a clip of the incongruous cover has proven a sensation, and by Monday was seen by more than 1 million people on NBC’s websites – second only to a highlight showing luger Shiva Keshavan falling off his sled and quickly getting back on. The ”Today” show picked up on it Monday, with Meredith Vieira saying the choir ”stole the show even before the opening ceremonies began.” One consolation for NBC: the company makes money off people seeing ads when they click on the video.
MIGHT AS WELL JUMP: We were about to change the channel Monday when the NBC Sports Network was showing ski jump training – I mean, you can’t find anything better to show than training runs? – but it was actually a nice showcase for analyst Jeff Hastings. He has a good idea of what the competitors are thinking and it was accompanied by solid video showing a look of concern, even fear, on the face of skier Sarah Hendrickson as she prepared to test an injury.
SPIN OUT: Television viewers seem intrigued by young women falling down in the snow. TiVo said that three of the five most re-watched moments by digital video recorder owners Sunday involved snowboarders Aimee Fuller of Britain and Ty Walker and Jessika Jenson of the United States taking falls. That gold medal run by American Jamie Anderson? Apparently, smooth excellence wasn’t quite enough.
EYE ON COSTAS: Bob Costas won’t be getting rid of his glasses anytime soon. It looks like his eye infection has now claimed both eyes.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT: ”NBC Breaking News: Bob Costas’ eye has been airlifted to safety.”
TWEET, PART TWO: ”Seriously, (at)nbc, take Bob off the air. My eyes itch just looking at him.”
UPCOMING: Star time. Shaun White goes for his third straight gold medal in the halfpipe on Tuesday.
David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org or on Twitter(at)dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.