Professor Paul MacArthur and fellow Olympics experts weigh-in on U.S. women Dominance in Week 1 of games
“While Team USA success does not always translate to significant primetime coverage, as can be witnessed by the airtime given to shooting, taekwondo, surfing, and equestrian, the NBC primetime broadcast tends to focus on sports where Americans are likely to medal. Team USA women are providing those medal stories for NBC in a variety of sports.”
Women athletes received the majority of the coverage in Week 1 of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, say Paul J. MacArthur (Utica College), Andrew C. Billings (University of Alabama), and James R. Angelini (University of Delaware), authors of the book Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth. The trio add that through the first seven nights of NBC’s primetime broadcast coverage, women’s sports were shown 56 percent of the time, clock-time results indicate.
According to MacArthur, Billings, and Angelini, such a pattern is consistent with the previous two Summer Olympic broadcasts in London and Rio, where women also received the majority of NBC’s primetime focus. American women Olympian dominance on the medals table is the most likely cause of the increased focus, the researchers indicate. “NBC tends to prioritize American athletes doing well,” Billings says, “and two-thirds of the U.S. medals won in Tokyo’s first week have been earned by women.”
Again following previous patterns, NBC’s Week 1 coverage has focused heavily on two sports: gymnastics and swimming, with the latter enjoying the rare opportunity to be shown live in primetime. Previous NBC Summer Olympic broadcasts have focused almost exclusively on five sports: gymnastics, swimming, track and field, diving, and beach volleyball. Week 1, however, featured some rare breakthroughs of other sports into the primetime telecasts. Angelini explains: “While we have seen less beach volleyball and diving as compared to the most recent Summer Games, NBC has prominently featured a few other sporting disciplines. Triathlon was a good example of this, with the men’s races featured, as was skateboarding, an event newly added for the 2020 Tokyo Games.”
Adds MacArthur: “While Team USA success does not always translate to significant primetime coverage, as can be witnessed by the airtime given to shooting, taekwondo, surfing, and equestrian, the NBC primetime broadcast tends to focus on sports where Americans are likely to medal. Team USA women are providing those medal stories for NBC in a variety of sports.”
A complete table providing the exact amount of time NBC dedicated to each Summer Olympic sport for the first seven days of the Tokyo Games, with breakouts by athlete gender, is located here.
The authors are posting regular updates about NBC’s coverage of men and women athletes throughout the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games on FiveRingTV.com. Additional updates will be posted on the @FiveRingTV Twitter feed.
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