There's been more attention on NBC's primetime Olympic coverage than ever before in 2014 thanks to the eye infection seen round the world of Bob Costas. It's opened up discussions here of who might replace Costas in the long-term at NBC and which other major personalities would be primetime hosts at other sports networks.
But just how large is the footprint of Bob Costas in Olympic primetime? It's actually much, much smaller than you think. The dean of sports media reporting, Richard Sandomir, has a breakdown at the New York Times. In his return to primetime this week, Bob Costas was on the air for little more than 15 minutes combined in his first two nights.
"He has no fixed length of on-screen time. But it turns out he’s not on much. In his first two nights back after sitting out six days with the infection, Costas was a visible presence for a mere 5 minutes 28 seconds on Monday and for 10:17 on Tuesday, nearly half of it an interview with the figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.
Costas was surprised by his figure for Monday’s show. “If you told me 15 minutes, I would say that sounds right,” he said."
Those figures were even less for fill-in hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, ranging from 3 to 8 minutes on air. The rest of the piece is a very interesting read on just how primetime Olympic coverage is structured. But until you see the numbers, it would never sink in just how little airtime the hosts actually get at the Olympics. Costas' role is mainly to conduct interviews and jump from one event to the next while informing viewers of what's happening.
There's certainly a lot to it with all the preparation and research necessary to be able to competently talk about any Olympic sport or athlete. But simultaenously, there's not a lot to it in being on the air for just 3-5% of primetime coverage.
Is there any more valuable role in television that in reality contains such little airtime?
[New York Times]