NBC's 2022 Winter Games will be unlike any Olympics we've seen
For the first time in decades, NBC won't be broadcasting the Today show from the Olympics' host country or doing commentary from the venues.
For years, NBC's has been all in going for primetime ratings gold during the Winter and Summer Olympics.
Not this year.
Due to tight COVID-19 precautions and China's tough travel restrictions, NBC Sports will not send its popular Today show hosts or commentators to China for the games. Savannah Guthrie will co-host the Opening Ceremonies broadcast Friday morning (6:30-11 a.m., NBC and Peacock) and Friday evening (8-11 p.m., NBC and Peacock) from the United States, not the host country.
NBC's primetime coverage begins tonight, with figure skating and the men's and women's moguls qualifications (8 p.m., NBC, Peacock). USA cable will air women's ice hockey all Thursday morning (until 12:30 p.m.); more women's hockey (5-7:30 p.m.) and mixed doubles curling (7:30-11:10 p.m.).
Announcing teams for figure skating, skiing, snowboarding, hockey and all other events will be calling the action from the cozy confines of NBC Sports studios in Stamford, Connecticut, more than 6,800 miles away, NPR reported Jan. 19.
NBC is not alone. ESPN is not sending staffers to China, either. And reporters for the Associated Press and other outlets will be confined to their hotel, bus rides to and from a venue and the main press center. Barricades block access to the rest of the city.
So don't expect to see stories about athletes frequenting local markets, reporters visiting landmarks, or winners partying at pubs late into the night, as we saw Alberto Tomba after winning gold in the giant slalom in the 1992 Albertville Winter Games in France.
Mike Tirico, NBC's main primetime Olympics host, will cover the first few days of the Winter Games before flying to Los Angeles to participate in NBC's broadcast of the Bengals-Rams Super Bowl LVI game Sunday, Feb. 13, USA Today reported.
Today will count on Craig Melvin to report from Beijing, while the rest of the talent remains in New York City.
The 13-hour time difference between Beijing and Cincinnati or New York means events broadcast live in primetime (8 p.m.) will be occurring at 9 a.m. the next morning. NBC executives are hoping to boost Peacock viewership by driving Olympics fans to the streaming service started in July 2020.
NBCUniversal, which pulled the plug on its NBC Sports Network cable channel Dec. 31, also will televise events on USA and CNBC cable. USA will carry a mix of sports nearly around the clock, with lots of hockey. CNBC will show lots of curling in evenings. (When curling debuted Wednesday evening on USA cable, I couldn't tell that announcers Jason Knapp and Kevin Martin were one-fourth of the way around the world from the China's "Ice Cube" arena.)
As with the pandemic-delayed Summer Games in Tokyo in 2021, few spectators will be at any venue. The International Olympic Committee announced two weeks ago that no tickets will be sold for the Winter Olympic or Paralympic Games in Beijing due to the pandemic. However, organizers said they will invite "selected" spectators from China to see the Games, but not allow fans from other countries to attend events, CBS reported.
Greater Cincinnati viewers have two Lawrenceburg-area natives to cheer for this month: Nick Goepper, trying for his third Olympic medal (and first gold) in slopestyle skiing, and first-time Olympian Justin Schoenefeld, a member of the freestyle team in the aerials competition.
NBC lists Goepper's Men's Freeski Slopestyle finals for 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14, on NBC and Peacock. Some of the qualification runs will air 1-2 p.m. Feb. 14 on USA.
Schoenefeld's Mixed Team Aerial finals are scheduled for 6-7:15 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 10 on USA. The men's Aerial Freestyle Skiing qualifications are slated for 1:30-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15 on USA. The finals are Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Here's a calendar of all Winter Olympic events. And here's the schedule for NBC and Peacock telecasts. I've not be able to find a schedule for USA and CNBC, except for my Cincinnati Bell Fioptics cable onscreen guide.
The closing ceremony airs 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20.