NBC Is Finally Ditching Tape Delays for the Olympics

March 28, 2017, 9:46 PM UTC
Biathlon - Winter Olympics Day 12
Photo by Julian Finney—Getty Images

One of the constant complaints about NBC’s coverage of last year’s Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro was that the combination of tape delays and live online streaming spoiled the surprise about many gold medal performances.

The network appears to have heard those complaints, as NBC announced on Tuesday that all of its coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics will be broadcast live across all time zones. That means U.S. viewers will be able to watch all Olympic events in Pyeongchang, South Korea live as they happen, rather than having to wait for them to air on tape delay during a prime TV time-slot. Tape delays during the Rio Olympics annoyed many viewers who risked learning about the outcome of various races and other events in the news before the events even aired in the U.S.

(The U.S. East Coast is one hour behind Rio De Janeiro, while Pyeongchang is 13 hours ahead.)

“Nothing brings America together for two weeks like the Olympics, and that communal experience will now be shared across the country at the same time, both on television and streaming online,” Jim Bell, president of NBC’s Olympics production and programming, said in a statement. “That means social media won’t be ahead of the action in any time zone, and as a result, none of our viewers will have to wait for anything.”


The Olympic broadcasts are typically huge hits for NBC, but TV ratings for the Rio Olympics were the lowest since 2000, dropping by a double-digit percentage from coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics. The drop-off was even more dramatic among the coveted younger demographic, with analysts blaming various factors for the decline—from the frustrating tape delays to younger audiences generally eschewing live sports for other forms of entertainment.

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Even with the lower ratings in 2016, NBC said it generated record profits with its Rio Olympics coverage, though the network was reportedly forced to compensate some advertisers for the poor ratings by offering them equivalent ad spots in the future for free.

NBC previously announced that sportscaster Mike Tirico will take over for Bob Costas as the host of the network’s primetime coverage for the 2018 Winter Olympics after Costas previously served in that role for every one since 1992. During the Olympics, NBC said, the network’s primetime broadcast will kick off at 8 p.m. ET on most nights, starting on Feb. 8, 2018.