NBC will not “shy away” from covering unplanned protests that might pop up during the upcoming XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, said Katie Couric, whose appointment as co-host of the Opening Ceremony was announced by the network today.
“It’s hard to predict in advance,” said Couric during a conference call with reporters today. “We never shy away from something that’s newsworthy.” She said coverage of protests during the Opening Ceremony or any other part of the Games would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Mike Tirico, Couric’s co-host for the Opening Ceremony, said journalists have a “responsibility to document” protests or athletes making political statements, and that the media could learn from mistakes made in the recent coverage of NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.
“We need to know why,” Tirico said about protests, and that the media “sometimes didn’t do as good a job” as it could have in explaining the causes behind the kneeling.
“Our responsibility is to report it, show it and then follow up on what the situation was,” Tirico said.
Asked whether the Olympics will have a tough time competing for viewership with all the political and social “distractions” taking place on a daily basis, Couric said that, while NBC’s coverage won’t “ignore things going on,” politics – particularly domestic politics – “takes a back seat when it comes to the Olympics.” She called the Games a “unifying event where political ideology and affiliations are not front and center.”
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to be apolitical at a time when that’s very difficult to do,” Couric said.
With news like the announcement that athletes from both North and South Korea will take part in the Opening Ceremony, Tirico said “awareness of all things Korea” has been raised, a boon to the Games’ visibility.
Couric’s involvement with the coverage marks her return to NBC and Olympics coverage, and the announcement comes less than a month before the February 9 Opening Ceremony – and just two months after the ouster from NBC of her old Today show co-host Matt Lauer, a fixture of Olympics coverage.
Lauer’s name did not come up during the press call.
As for the host country, South Korea is prepared, said Gary Zenkel, NBC Olympics President, Operations & Strategy. “I’m happy to report PyeongChang is ready to host the Olympics,” he said, noting that the athletes’ and media villages are open, and that NBC is nearing completion on “building out” its tech space and studios. Four-hundred NBC workers are on the ground there today.
Even with the first-ever live streaming of an Opening Ceremony, television will not take a backseat to social media during the Games, suggested Jim Bell, President, NBC Olympics Production and Programming.
He noted that the 14-hour time difference – 10 AM in South Korea is 8 PM Eastern time – is good for TV viewers, with morning events of high interest getting primetime coverage.
With NBC’s live coverage across the U.S., viewers will share “a communal experience and not feel like television is being usurped by social media,” Bell said.
NBC’s primetime coverage begins February 8, the day before the Opening Ceremony. Live coverage on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app begins Friday, February 9 at 6 AM ET. NBC’s fully-produced presentation of the Opening Ceremony, hosted by Couric and Tirico and featuring interviews and profiles, will air at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on NBC.