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Meredith Vieira to Become First Woman to Host Olympics Primetime Show Solo

Bob Costas will once again be forced to sit out NBC’s Friday night coverage of the Winter Olympics and will be replaced by Meredith Vieira, the first woman to ever host the primetime coverage solo.

Costas has been out sick all week with an eye infection. Matt Lauer has filled in as host Tuesday through Thursday.

Executives at NBC envision Vieira staying in the primetime seat for two nights, said Jim Bell, executive producer of the Olympics broadcast for NBCUniversal. “This has lingered for a little bit,” he said during a conference call with reporters on Friday. “We will just have to see, as we’ve done pretty calmly and rationally, and take it one day at a time. We’ll wake up tomorrow and see how Bob is doing and make a decision then.” Bell said NBC executives had not yet contemplated removing Costas from hosting duties.

The choice of Vieira was made largely because she is less closely affiliated with job duties for any particular program, said Bell. Teh network has a strong roster of candidates for the Olympics primetime seat, he said, but “many of them are already working for us on the air.”

Vieria has maintained ties as a contributor to NBC since stepping down from co-anchoring duties on “Today” in 2011. She co-hosted the broadcast of the Games’ opening ceremonies. ” Her schedule was a little bit looser,” said Bell. “It was a really easy decision to keep the other parts of the operation working smoothly, and not disrupt another part or another show that anybody else is doing.”

Vieira, the veteran broadcaster said taking the primetime Olympics seat is “not something I ever anticipated having the opportunity to do and I’m sorry that is has to happen this way, but I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this and hope to do a good job for all the folks here.”

Even with Costas out (and the harsh time difference), ratings for the Sochi Winter Olympics have been on par with the ratings for Vancouver four years ago.

Bell said an already-announced look at the infamous 1994  incident involving Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding was presently planned to air during the last night of Olympics coverage. NBC announced in January that Kerrigan, a winner of the Silver Medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics, would join its Olympics team as an analyst while taking part in an NBC documentary about the attack. Both Kerrigan and Harding agreed to be interviewed by NBC correspondent Mary Carillo.

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