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UC Professor Conducts Olympic Research

MacArthur, Colleagues Analyze Gender Gap in Coverage

Although still not even, researchers find primetime coverage gender gap is narrowing


Utica, NY (02/18/2014)
- Through the first nine nights of NBC’s Sochi Olympic broadcast, male athletes received the majority of the network’s primetime coverage.

Paul J. MacArthur, program director of the Public Relations and Journalism department at Utica College, along with a research team consisting of Dr. Andrew Billings (University of Alabama), Dr. James Angelini (University of Delaware), and Dr. Lauren Smith (Auburn University) are charting the amount of time the NBC broadcast network devotes to male and female athletes on its primetime Olympic telecast.

From Feb. 6 through 14, male athletes received 47.6 percent of NBC’s primetime coverage, female athletes received 37.6 percent of the coverage, and pairs events received the remaining 14.8 percent. That gender gap is likely to close significantly as mens’ figure skating has been completed, while ladies’ figure skating will take place during the second week. The researchers indicate that while the television gender gap has always been wider in the Winter Games than in the Summer Games, NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Olympics has to the potential to reach gender equity.

“The success of Team U.S.A. women is likely impacting NBC’s coverage,” said MacArthur. “For example, Erin Hamlin took home Team U.S.A.’s first ever luge medal and more than 99 percent of NBC’s primetime luge coverage has been of the women’s event.”

Adds MacArthur: “Team U.S.A. women won more medals than U.S. men through the first nine days of the Olympics, so it’s not a coincidence that women are receiving more focus than in previous Winter Games.”

Such a trend was found by the researchers in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, where women received the majority of primetime broadcast television coverage for the first time since the studies began with the 1994 Winter Games. Women won 55.7 percent of Team USA’s medals at the 2012 Games.

Once women’s figure skating is shown, will women athletes reach television equity with their male counterparts? The researchers simply say: stay tuned. 

About Paul J. MacArthur – Paul J. MacArthur has co-authored 10 studies focusing on network television presentation of the Olympic Games. His writings about sports and music have been featured in several publications, including, Skiing Heritage: The Journal of the International Skiing History Association, Northwest Airlines WorldTraveler, Snowboard Trade News, Future Snowboarding, Down Beat, The Houston Press and VERMONT Magazine. A snowboarding and skiing historian, he served as a consultant for The Roots of a Movement: Colorado Snowboard Archive exhibit, which is on display at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail, Colorado. MacArthur is program director of the Public Relations and Journalism department at Utica College and heads its sports communication program.

About Utica College – Utica College, founded in 1946, is a comprehensive private institution offering bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. The College, located in upstate central New York, approximately 90 miles west of Albany and 50 miles east of Syracuse, currently enrolls more than 4,000 students in 36 undergraduate majors, 27 minors, 21 graduate programs and a number of pre-professional and certification programs.

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