NBC 2018 Winter Olympics

With the 2018 Winter Olympics just days away, NBC faces several questions about the event that will dominate its programming for the next couple of weeks.

With little to no buzz entering the PyeongChang Games, officials inside NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut and the International Broadcast Center in Korea must be wondering how they can draw viewers this month.

The questions NBC must deal with include:

Can it raise interest in the Games despite the lack of star power?

Hockey won’t have NHL players, skiing has Lindsay Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, but figure skating doesn’t have that one big star that NBC can hang its hat on. The U.S. women may not have any medal candidates, while the men have Nathan Chen and ice dancing has siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani.

Will the West Coast warm to viewing the Games “live” at the same time as the East Coast?

For years, West Coast viewers have complained about having to wait three hours to watch the Games. That changes this year. We’ll see if the numbers go up.

Speaking of numbers, can 2018 end a trend of falling viewership for both Sochi in 2014 and Rio in 2016?

In 2014, the Sochi Olympics averaged 21 million viewers in primetime, off 17% from Vancouver, which was mainly live. In 2016, Rio, which was mainly live, averaged 26 million viewers a night. Those games were off 15% from the 2012 London Games, which were mainly tape delayed.

In addition, will U.S. viewers want to watch an Olympics from a time zone that is 14 hours head of the East Coast?

The silver lining is that some of the events, like skiing, will be seen live in primetime in the Eastern and Central time zones.

But overall, the main worry for NBC will be the ratings. With the double-digit drops in the last two Olympics, the Peacock hopes that consumption will mean more viewing through other platforms, like mobile devices, tablets and connected TVs. Back in 2014, connected TVs weren’t a factor. In 2016, they were.

In addition, this is a transitional Olympiad for NBC. Bob Costas, who hosted the Olympics dating back to 1998, will be watching from home. Matt Lauer, who was involved in NBC’s coverage going back to the 1990s, isn’t on the Today show anymore, meaning that the hosting of the morning coverage will be handled by Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.

With NBC coming off a Super Bowl that had viewership off by seven percent from the year before, it knows that the Olympics has to carry the flag for the network through the rest of the month. While NBC will be making a reported $1.4 billion in revenue thanks to ad sales from both the Super Bowl and the Olympics, the last thing it wants to do is to provide make-good ads due to lower ratings.

NBC goes into this Winter Olympics with a lot of questions. The network hopes the answers will mean some positive responses when all is said and done.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.