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NBC Olympics Programming Head Touts Digital Growth Ahead of 2018 Korean Winter Games

With 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, fast approaching, NBC’s president of Olympics programming and production downplayed concerns that the 2016 Rio Olympics did not draw the same ratings as London in 2012.

“I think one of the important takeaways from Rio was that we have done as much as any media property to try and build out the other platforms in a meaningful and substantial way,” Jim Bell said Thursday at the TCA summer press tour. “It was only in 1996…that the games were only available on NBC and there was only 170 hours [of coverage]. Fast forward 20 years and we had nearly 7,000 hours of available coverage from Rio. We’re not doing these things just because we can but because we want to reach people.”

Bell also said that the linear numbers for Rio were strong, and NBC’s decision to build up its digital coverage of the games was the right move for fans.

“These were technological, engineering, and operational feats–especially happening in a place like Brazil–that were difficult and challenging and expensive, but we did them,” he said. “We did it because that’s how people consume their media.”

The Rio games averaged 27.5 million viewers across linear and digital platforms, down 9% from the 2012 summer games in London. However, the Rio Olympics were most profitable Olympics in history, per NBC.

Despite PyeongChang being 13 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, events such as bobsled, Alpine skiing, and figure skating will air live in primetime on the East Coast, while simultaneously airing at earlier times in the Central, Mountain, and Western time zones.

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