NBC feels Lindsey Vonn's pain
News of Lindsey Vonn's skiing crash was just beginning to unfold Tuesday as NBC Sports executives gathered for a media briefing at 30 Rock one year and one day in advance of the Sochi Olympics.
No Vonn in Russia would blow a huge hole in the network's American-star-centric coverage. Without yet knowing the extent of the injury, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus expressed concern and best wishes for Vonn, but he did not shy from her importance to the business of the Olympics.
"We expect her to be the comeback Olympian of the year," he said, already hoping for a speedy, Adrian Peterson-like recovery.
Vonn reportedly tore her right ACL and MCL and suffered a broken leg, too.
NBC's biggest announcement was that it would start its Sochi coverage on Thursday, Feb. 6, one day before the Opening Ceremony and one day earlier than the customary starting day.
The Thursday night coverage - tape-delayed, naturally - will center around two new events: team figure skating and something called slopestyle snowboarding.
Lazarus said that even with Sochi being eight or nine hours from New York time - Russia has not yet settled on whether it will use daylight savings time - the approach to coverage will be similar to that in London.
Every event will be shown live on the Internet, and many events will be shown live on television - including all U.S. hockey games, men's and women's, and the finals. But the juiciest TV goodies, such as figure skating finals, will be saved for prime time repackaging - a strategy that paid off handsomely in the ratings in 2012.
"Thirty million people a night voted to watch us when they already knew what was going on [with results]," Lazarus said. As for critics of that approach, he said, "We're not going to be bullied, but we are respectful of our audience's point of view."
One big variable for the 2014 games remains whether or not the NHL will participate, a matter still under discussion. But Lazarus said NBC has a "high degree of optimism that the NHL will be there."
Lazarus said he expects NBC to make a profit on the Games.