Eye-yi-yi: Viewers may not see much of Bob Costas for a while as the NBC Olympics host continues to battle an eye infection that has temporarily taken him off the air.
"It's a slow process," Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "He's very frustrated."
Costas' health woes have become a hot topic on social media at the 2014 Winter Game in Sochi, Russia. The longtime NBC sports broadcaster covered the first few days of the Games, but the eye infection steadily worsened and over the weekend became obvious as viewers saw redness and irritation spreading to his right eye as well as the left. For Wednesday's prime-time coverage he's due to be replaced for the second straight night by "Today" cohost Matt Lauer.
Lazarus said Costas was being treated by Russian doctors. He declined to specify what sort of treatment the host is receiving, other than to say: "He's staying in the hotel, in a dark room, trying to get better."
Luckily for NBC, interest in the Sochi Games remains relatively high, despite the hitch in TV hosts as well as an overall mediocre performance so far for U.S. athletes. NBC says viewership is running almost even with the Vancouver Games in 2010 and ahead of Turin in 2006. This despite a nine-to-12-hour time difference that means Americans already have access to virtually all results long before prime time begins in the States.
"For most viewers, it just doesn't matter," Alan Wurtzel, NBCUniversal's president of research, told reporters.
As for Costas, NBC isn't offering any predictions on when he might be back.
"We're hopeful Bob will be back in the chair soon," Lazarus said. "We're taking it day by day."