Figure skating: Women's final to prove TV ratings winner

Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:28am EST
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By Keith Weir

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The women's figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics has a special place in the hearts of viewers and the television executives who spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying the rights to the Games.

Underlining the importance of the sport, U.S. broadcaster NBC has two separate commentary teams and crews working on it.

One handles live programming on its NBCSN subscription channel and the other produces a package of highlights screened in evening prime time on its main network.

"It's one of the crown jewels of the Winter Olympic sports. It's great for NBC, NBCSN, and it's weather proof," said NBC Olympics Executive Producer Jim Bell.

With American medal contender Gracie Gold to skate on Wednesday and Thursday, the shows should provide a further boost to what has been a positive Games for NBC.

"Viewers love the personalities, these 20-year-old girls going out there, it really resonates with them," said Brad Adgate, research director with media services agency Horizon Media in New York.

"Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding took it to another level," he added, referring to the soap-style plotline in 1994 when an associate of Harding's husband tried to knobble rival Kerrigan with a hammer blow to the knee.

The two nights of that 1994 competition rank among the 20 most watched sports events in U.S. television history. The rest of the list is made up of various Super Bowls down the years.   Continued...

South Korea's Kim Yuna practises her routine during a figure skating training session at the Iceberg Skating Palace training arena during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 17, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray