This is what I’m thinking in my Olympic diary:
• Western New York viewers weren’t initially enamored with the Rio Olympics in prime time as much as expected.
But thanks to Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Katie Ledecky and the strong performances of other Americans, the Rio Games have staged a local comeback after the first two nights and now the ratings are close to what they were for the 2012 games in London.
Over the first six nights, Channel 2 averaged a 17.9 rating for Rio, only about 4 percent lower than the 18.7 average here for London. Considering the changing TV landscape, 4 percent is hardly a significant drop.
If you remove the opening ceremonies, which had a much lower rating in Rio, the ratings here for Rio and London are exactly the same.
That’s impressive since NBC also is streaming everything live at a time more people know how to do it and many local viewers have the advantage of watching more events live on CBC’s Toronto affiliate.
• CBC’s Thursday afternoon coverage meant Western New York viewers – who weren’t satisfied or capable of getting NBC’s live stream of the women’s all-around gymnastics competition that showed the gold medal performance of Biles and the silver medal performance by Raisman – could watch it live on the Canadian channel several hours before NBC’s delayed prime-time coverage.
• On Thursday night, local viewers also got to see some comedy relief that made CBC announcer Elliotte Friedman a viral sensation in the States. Best known for his work on “Hockey Night in Canada,” Friedman mistakenly confused U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps with his friend and rival Ryan Lochte as they swam the 200 meter medley. After saying that Lochte had finally beaten Phelps and that Phelps might not even medal (he won the gold, Lochte didn’t medal), Friedman realized he mistook the lanes they were swimming, apologized and corrected himself.
Few Americans outside of Buffalo, Detroit and a few other areas that get CBC saw it live. But it became a Twitter sensation. I was watching NBC’s coverage of the race, but my son who lives in Virginia alerted me that Friedman was getting almost as much Twitter attention as Donald Trump. Let’s hope he can eventually live it down.
• One thing was missing from CBC’s coverage of the women’s gymnastics Thursday: We didn’t get to see any shots of the agony that Raisman’s parents, Lynn and Rick, were going through. You had to wait for NBC’s coverage to see that. Their squirming to their daughter’s every move became another viral sensation, as it did in London. Aly’s parents have become such stars that they deserve to be in a commercial, perhaps for an anxiety medication product advertised during the nightly news.
• There was an additional bonus for viewers who already saw CBC’s live gymnastics coverage Thursday. They could head over Thursday night from NBC to NBCSN to watch West Seneca’s Matt Anderson lead the United States volleyball team to victory over Brazil in an exciting match. It deserved higher than the rating of about 1 that it received here.
• In his report at 6:25 p.m. Thursday, Channel 2 sports director Adam Benigni tried not to spoil NBC’s coverage of gymnastics by telling viewers what had happened a few hours earlier. He just said that Biles and Raisman “competed,” not that they won medals. About three or four minutes later on the same station, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt announced Biles earned the gold and Raisman the silver.
In a Twitter exchange, Benigni told me there is no edict to keep the news from viewers before NBC carries the competition. “For years, we have chosen to try not to spoil results for viewers. We get both sides of it.”
If I were Benigni, I’d revisit the policy. If Holt thinks it is acceptable to report that history has been made, it should be OK for NBC affiliates to do it, especially in an area that gets CBC coverage. If viewers don’t want to know what happened, they should stop watching sports reports.
• NBC host Bob Costas noted at the end of Thursday’s program that the tie in the women’s 100-meter freestyle that resulted in American Simone Manuel and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak both receiving gold medals also meant that, in a rare occurrence, both national anthems would be played.
It would have been a good time to mention that Oleksiak’s father, Richard, has U.S. citizenship. Costas didn’t mention it. Richard had a Hall of Fame athletic career at Nichols School. Still, hearing both anthems was a very nice way to end NBC’s night.
• Of course, the social networks have been loaded with the typical complaints about NBC’s coverage – too America-centric, too many commercials and too much of the competition (gymnastics) is tape delayed. I understand the complaints because I hear them every two years. But NBC consistently says it has research that shows that when viewers know Americans do well, it actually enhances the viewership of taped coverage.
• You may have read a quote from Meghan Quinn, who was responsible for getting the Buffalo Bills flag in front of viewers of NBC’s “Today,” about the reaction of NBC anchor Mike Tirico. Quinn said Tirico “was upset he didn’t notice the flag in the background [during the live shot]. He said he would have given a ‘Go Bills’ shout out if he did. He has friends in Hamburg.”
He was most likely referring to former Channel 4 sports anchor and reporter Paul Peck and his wife, Kim. Peck and Tirico were roommates at Syracuse. Tirico is the godfather to Paul and Kim’s daughter, Rachel.
Asked about the possibility, Peck said he was “pretty sure he was talking about us. My wife texted him the screen shot. She told him to say hello to those folks and thank them.”
• I thought I had a great plan for the taped opening ceremonies: DVR it and speed through the commercials. However, there was one glitch: I did it only until midnight, which resulted in missing the lighting of the Olympic torch. Silly me thought NBC would stick to the schedule. It ended at 12:30 a.m. NBC has gone past midnight on other nights, including the night that the U.S. and Canadian anthems were played. Be warned.