Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski were the breakout broadcasting sensations of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and NBC wisely promoted them to the network’s top announcing team on figure skating. To no surprise, Weir and Lipinski will be back in the broadcast booth alongside play-by-play Terry Gannon for the 2018 Winter Games in PyongChang, South Korea.
Four years ago, as NBCSN’s No. 2 figure skating announcing team behind Tom Hammond, Scott Hamilton, and Sandra Bezic, the Gannon-Weir-Lipinski trio boosted the network to the 10 best weekday ratings in its history. Viewers weren’t just engaged by Weir and Lipinski’s enthusiastic commentary and humor, but the two were also a sensation on Instagram with their around-the-town and behind-the-scenes photos and videos. NBC sent the team to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio as well, and their Instagram coverage was again a hit. The pair has also done fashion commentary for Access Hollywood and reported on the scene from the Kentucky Derby.
“I am beyond thrilled to be representing NBC during their primetime coverage of figure skating in PyeongChang,” Lipinski said in NBC’s official statement, “and see this opportunity as an important privilege — with an obligation to our viewers to provide educated commentary and engaging storytelling as we crown the next champions in our sport.
“The level of competition in South Korea will undoubtedly be the best the world has ever seen in figure skating, and I cannot wait to see what the most compelling sport in the Winter Games (sorry, I’m a little biased), will have to offer come February.”
“It’s an extreme privilege to craft the stories of the incredible athletes while enlightening and entertaining our audiences while we all enjoy a sport that has meant so much to my life” added Weir. “I can’t wait to get to PyeongChang and marvel at the performances of the skaters who across all disciplines, are competing at heights I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.”
NBC is also supplementing its figure skating coverage with a daily live show that will preview upcoming events and report on storylines. The show will be called Olympic Ice, which should be familiar to fans who enjoyed NBC’s daily figure skating show hosted by Mary Carillo (along with analysts Scott Hamilton and Dick Button, and skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier) on USA Network during the 2006 Winter Games in Torino.
Additionally, Andrea Joyce will provide reporting on figure skating and short-track speed skating for NBC’s coverage in PyongChang.
This new version of Olympic Ice will be hosted by Liam McHugh with Hamilton and Tanith White providing analysis for the show. The coverage might be a bit softer and more feature-heavy than the Carillo-Button incarnation of the show. Button was a notoriously finicky, bordering on cranky, commentator who wasn’t afraid to be critical. One of the 2006 version’s more popular segments was the “Push Dick’s Button” segment in which he answered viewer questions submitted online. With social media and streaming, will the 2018 Olympic Ice be even more interactive with the audience? Perhaps Weir and Lipinski will play a role in that.
But Hamilton will should provide strong analysis of the competition and preview upcoming events along with White. If the show keeps the same fun, irreverent tone as the original, while allowing skaters to show their personalities in interviews and features, it should be a welcome addition to NBCSN’s Olympics coverage.