Score one for the fledgling Peacock network. Once all final numbers were tabulated, NBC’s coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics attracted over 190 million viewers. It was enough to become the second most-watched Winter Olympics in history, only surpassed by the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics which featured the infamous Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding showdown.
With it’s close proximity to the United States, the Vancouver locale enabled the network to air events live or with very little time delay. What’s surprising about the ratings is that the 2010 coverage even beat the 2002 Salt Lake City hometown telecast. No doubt that the North American countries doing so well in the medals race helped garner interest in both countries. Capping the two week event with a historic US vs Canada Hockey final, was so perfect you couldn’t have planned it any better even if you had scripted it.
Wanting to capitalize on the number of eyeballs NBC was receiving during their 865 hours of coverage, programming execs decided to interrupt the closing ceremonies with a sneak preview of Jerry Seinfeld’s “The Marriage Ref”. Bizarrely NBC abruptly cut to commercial after Michael Buble’s campy performance to Seinfeld’s new show. All viewers heard was Bob Costas say,
“We’re back in an hour with the Closing Ceremony party from Vancouver. Nickleback and Avril Lavigne are among the acts that will be performing. But right now we take you to the premiere of Jerry Seinfeld’s new series, ‘The Marriage Ref.’ “
After the hour, the coverage returned at 11:30pm with performances from Avril Lavigne and Nickelback to name a few. Let’s face it, no one was tuning back to watch them at that late hour. The one thing I look forward to watching NBC’s coverage is the over-top-cheesy montages and exaggerated summations of the triumphs of the Olympic spirit delivered by Costas himself. But since the telecast was cut short, I along with millions of viewers were denied this.
With NBC’s current contract to air the Olympics ending after the 2012 London Summer Olympics, this was potentially the last Winter Olympics to air on NBC. And my last impression will always be of “The Marriage Ref” instead of the excellent work NBC has produced over the years. Absolute FAIL, NBC… FAIL.