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NBC gives Winter Olympics to fans when and how they want it

US Karly Shorr competes in the Women's Snowboard

US Karly Shorr competes in the Women's Snowboard Slopestyle qualification at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 6, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Javier Soriano

The complaint department will be open Friday morning as people around the globe watch the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics live from Sochi, while NBC forces viewers in the United States to wait until prime time.

But let's keep perspective here, shall we, America? The Peacock's decision to save the pageantry is sensible, given that it's a show, not a sports event, and that explanations of Russian history and other context might be helpful.

The more important news on the Olympic media front is that NBC's biennial march into the 21st century continues, with more steps toward giving modern fans what they want, when they want it.

Streaming every event live from London in 2012 was a milestone, and that is the plan again. But NBC is taking it a step further by adding to its live TV coverage -- notably by showing all figure skating live on NBC Sports Network.

Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, admitted the skating plan is "a leap," given its value as a prime-time attraction, but media companies know they must evolve with the times, lest customers get very upset.

NBC essentially is having it both ways, providing events on TV and the Internet in real time from Sochi -- which is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time -- while re-packaging it all in a neat bow for those who prefer a polished, traditional television experience when they return home from work or school.

"It's an unknown, but we're trying to be aggressive and responsive to some people who don't think we do enough live, but we still have obligations to our business," Lazarus said. "Certainly when 30 million people show up at night to watch something they likely know the results of, I think they like the secret sauce we put into it."

The network's research on the London Games showed that daytime buzz does not detract from nighttime interest. It enhances it.

The live fun begins with the United States playing Finland in women's hockey at 3 a.m. (not a misprint) Saturday, and continues through Feb. 23.

Watching online requires authenticating that one is a customer of an approved cable, satellite or phone company provider. That process occurs automatically through select companies, including Cablevision, which owns Newsday, for viewers accessing NBC's site at home.

The network also has an app for mobile devices called NBC Sports Live Extra.

In addition to live events, will provide original content such as "Olympic Ice," a figure skating show featuring 2002 gold- medal winner Sarah Hughes.

Another service, called "Gold Zone," will offer whip-around coverage of various events -- appropriately hosted by Andrew Siciliano of DirecTV's NFL Red Zone channel.

Westwood One and Sirius XM will carry the Games on radio.

One highlight of NBC's coverage will be a long-form documentary segment on the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga before and during the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

How did interviewer Mary Carillo convince Kerrigan to sit for an interview? "I'm a pest," she said.

"It's not something I think about on a daily basis, or hardly ever, unless I'm asked," Kerrigan said at an NBC media briefing in early January. "I hope that doesn't overshadow everything that I did. That was just a moment in my life."

The night of the short program in 1994 remains the highest-rated non-Super Bowl in American sports television history.

That event was shown on tape delay, by the way.


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