Regular readers of this blog (both of them!) know that I am generally not a fan of NBC's Olympics coverage. But, one week into the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, I can actually list two things to like about NBC's coverage this time around.
First, I'm generally liking the live primetime coverage. Given the time difference, NBC is broadcasting events in primetime in the US that are happening late the following morning in South Korea, and while this has been a challenge for athletes, as they've had to adjust to competing in the mornings rather than afternoons or evenings, it's also created some compelling viewing. Live television, by its nature, cannot be heavily edited or interspersed with the stupid human interest features that NBC loves to force upon its viewers. It's also not quite as US-centric as edited, tape delayed events tend to be, either. To be sure, there have still been some of those elements during the primetime broadcast, NBC still can't help but focus on the "narrative" aspect of the athletes, and don't even get me started on all the commercials. However, where NBC appears to have made live events - figure skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding - the focus of their primetime coverage, it's actually been halfway decent. (I can't speak to the quality of the parallel live coverage on NBC Sports Network, since I no longer have cable, but I haven't read any major complaints so far.)
Second, I'm liking the fact that Bob Costas has relinquished his duties as host, handing them off to Mike Tirico. Tirico might be a bit bland, but at least he's not insufferable the way Costas was. I'm not having to mute the TV every time Tirico comes on, as I was prone to doing every time Costas and his hectoring smugness graced my TV screen. He truly was one of the worst things about NBC's Olympics coverage, and I don't miss him.
This isn't to say that everything has been great for NBC; they've made a few gaffes, and their ratings continue to decline (it should be noted that the US Winter Olympic team itself is performing relatively poorly, which may be part of the problem). Furthermore, I admit that my expectations for NBC's Olympics coverage are so low that even minor adjustments to their coverage count as improvement.
However, NBC's done at least a couple of things right this time around, and for that they deserve a (small) tip of the hat.