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Olympics Buzz: Slumping toward the Pyeonchang Games finish line

This is your daily infusion of information and news that you might have missed. The really big stuff you’ll find in other stories.

The Winter Games are creeping toward a conclusion on Sunday with both the U.S. team and NBC in a bit of a slump. The medal count, and the ratings, are down.

As a way to quantify the viewing part of it, the Buzz put itself in the TV viewership version of Gitmo by attempting to watch, with the help of the record and fast forward button, 24 hours of Olympic television on NBC and NBCSN. CNBC and streaming weren’t viewed, as one can only take so much of the Olympics without a head explosion.

The watch period was from 8 a.m. PST Sunday until 8 a.m. Monday. The times used are approximate, as a stopwatch wasn’t used. Commercials weren’t included nor were studio time, highlights and bumpers.

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The conclusion is that $963 million, the U.S. rights fee, doesn’t buy what it used to. There just isn’t enough going on to warrant wall-to-wall coverage. As a matter of fact, you could watch coverage of the men’s biathlon 15-kilometer mass start three different times in 24 hours.

Both NBCSN and NBC devoted 38 minutes of the same coverage at different times to a sport that’s not considered must-see viewing. Then, if you didn’t get enough, NBCSN replayed 26 minutes of the race in the evening. It was a great finish, though, a photo finish.

Do you like the two-man bobsled? You could get 29 minutes on MSNBC and the same on the big network, broken into two parts. How about the women’s snowboard big air? (Yes, that’s a real sport, not made up.) It got 17 live minutes on NBC and 45 taped minutes on NBCSN.

NBCSN got stuck being the tease horse (the guy horse whose job it is to get the gal horse in the mood before the stallion arrives). It aired a full-hour (with commercials) pre-game show to the ice dancing and then gave it 81 minutes of live coverage, but not of the people we care about. Then when it got interesting, NBC took over and gave it almost 70 minutes of live coverage.

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Think about it, ice dancing, a one-hour pre-game show and almost 150 minutes of live coverage. What does the women’s figures, the marquee event, get, its own network?

But overall, NBC and its sibling, did a lot correctly, and is actually doing a pretty good job. How about uninterrupted coverage of hockey, be it the U.S. women against Finland (stretches of 39, 35 and 28 straight minutes) or the Canadian women against “Russia” (32, 31 and 34 minutes).

Insomniacs had to delight in about 120 minutes each of coverage of the U.S. women curlers against Denmark and the U.S. men’s curling overtime thriller (see the things the Olympics make you say) against Canada.

So, it appears as if NBC is doing most everything right but the combination of the 17-hour (from L.A.) time shift, the sagging U.S. team and the other things people can do and watch in a day, is taking its toll on the ratings.

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Only one question remains, and that’s based on the commercials. Do we really need another “Mamma Mia” movie?

Bobsled tie

You would think in a sport measured in hundredths of a second there would never be a tie. Two-man bobsled proved that wrong. Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz of Canada tied Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany for the gold. How weird is this? The last time Canada won a gold in two-man boblsed was 1998, and it was tie with Italy. The top U.S. sled, with Justin Olsen and Evan Weinstock, finished 14th.

Finally a gold

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After two bronze medals in these Games, Norway’s Robert Johansson, he of the signature red handlebar mustache, finally got a gold as part of the large hill ski-jumping team competition. Germany, which won in Sochi, was a distant second. The U.S. did not make the final round of eight, finishing ninth in qualification. Ski jumping is the latest sport to pack up its bags and close down for the Games.

And speaking of Norway …

Norway is turning the total medals race into a rout. After Monday’s competition it had 28, with Germany in second with 20. The Scandinavian country even picked up a gold in speedskating, winning the men’s 500 meters. Havard Lorentzen was the recipient of the gold as the Netherlands was kept off the medal platform for only the second time in that discipline in these Games. Mitchell Whitmore was the high U.S. finisher at 15th.

In progress …

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The U.S. qualified three women into Friday’s snowboard big air final. Jessika Jenson, Julia Marino and slopestyle gold medalist Jamie Anderson were among the 12 qualifiers. … The U.S. women curlers picked up two wins — over Denmark, 7-6, and China, 10-4 — to put them at 4-3 and in a tie for fourth place. They could make the medal round with some luck. The U.S. men beat Canada, 9-7, but at 3-4 and in seventh will need to run the table and hope to make a tiebreaker.


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