By Barry Janoff
March 28, 2017: Since 1975, people on NBC have been proclaiming, "Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!"
Beginning this February, people on NBC will be proclaiming, "Live from PyeongChang, it’s the 2018 Winter Games."
Alleviating several problems in one move, NBCUniversal said it would make a major change to its broadcasting schedule for the 2018 Winter Games this coming February in PyeongChang, South Korea.
For the first time, TV programming of events will air live across all time zones in the U.S.
South Korea is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast, ten hours ahead of the West Coast.
According to NBC Sports, "On most nights, primetime coverage will begin at 8 PM. ET, 7 PM CT, 6 PM MT and 5 PM PT."
In addition to reducing and/or eliminating the showing of tape-delayed events to significant portions of the nation after they have been seen live elsewhere, the move addresses another problem that NBC has faced during recent Olympic Games: Results appear on social media before many parts of the national actually get to see the events themselves.
Complaints first arose during the 2012 Summer Games in London, when the East Coast and other zones east of the Mississippi saw live competition, with the results flooding social media. That left the rest of the country forced to ignore Web sites, Twitter and other social media platforms if they wanted to see the events from a fresh perspective.
NBC also found that year that TV ratings were dipping while online views were rising, not a good trend for broadcast advertisers.
"(This) means social media won’t be ahead of the action in any time zone, and as a result, none of our viewers will have to wait for anything," Jim Bell, president, NBC Olympics Production and Programming, said in a statement. "This is exciting news for the audience, the advertisers, and our affiliates alike."
NBC said that primetime coverage would be followed in all time zones by local news and then a “Primetime Plus” program with live continuing PyeongChang Olympic coverage.
A primetime replay would follow "Primetime Plus."
The PyeongChang Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 9; competition starts Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 25.
During the 2016 Summer Games from Rio de Janeiro, NBC Sports aired a record 6,755 hours of programming.
"It's simply breathtaking to consider that a mere 20 years ago in Atlanta (1996) we telecast about 170 hours and now we're creeping up on 7,000," said Bell. "And while, of course, we're very proud of our engineering capability, our production capability . . . it is still the overall quality that we have in television, especially in primetime that we're looking forward to here."
"(This) means social media won’t be ahead of the action in any time zone, and as a result, none of our viewers will have to wait for anything."
NBC gets significant dollars from official International Olympic Committee partners, which include Alibaba, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Dow, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and Toyota, and Visa.
Also adding major dollars to marketing are such U.S. Olympic Committee partners as 24 Hour Fitness, AT&T, BMW, BP, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Chobani, Citi, DeVry University, Dick's Sporting Goods, Hershey, Hilton, Kellogg's, Liberty Mutual, Nike, Oakley, Ralph Lauren, Smucker's and United Airline.
"Nothing brings America together for two weeks like the Olympics, and that communal experience will now be shared across the country at the same time both on television and streaming online," said Bell.
NBC has had exclusive U.S. coverage of every Summer Olympic Games since Seoul in 1988 and every Winter Olympics Games since Salt Lake City in 2002. In 2011, NBCUniversal extended its TV rights deal for the Olympics through 2020 for $4.38 billion, and in 2014 again extended those rights through 2032 for $7.65 billion, according to industry analysts.
The 2020 Summer Games are in Tokyo, the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Los Angeles and Paris are currently vying for the rights to host the 2024 Summer Games, to be denied by the IOC this September.