Meet the Next NFL RedZone

NBC is hoping to turn the Olympics into a cash cow.

NBC wants to help you get your Scottish curling fix.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Jan. 14, 2014, midnight

It’s 8:30 on a Fri­day morn­ing and you’ve got a prob­lem.

You’re tuned in to see if the Swedish curl­ing team can de­fend their Olympic gold medal. But as the sweep­ers near the end of their game, you real­ize you’re miss­ing the big race — will Olga Zait­seva help ski and shoot the Rus­si­an biath­lon re­lay team to vic­tory on home snow?

For dozens, and per­haps even scores, of Amer­ic­ans, this would be a huge di­lemma. NBC thinks it has the solu­tion.

For diehard fans of ob­scure cold-weath­er sports, the net­work’s on­line-only “Gold Zone” could be the broad­cast in­nov­a­tion they’ve been wait­ing for. If the name sounds fa­mil­i­ar, think of the NFL’s Red­Zone Chan­nel, which jumps view­ers rap­id-fire from game to game in or­der to show the most scor­ing plays. NBC’s concept is sim­il­ar — show as many gold-medal events and as much ac­tion as pos­sible — and its on-air tal­ent prob­ably won’t have much trouble ad­just­ing to the format. Red­Zone’s An­drew Si­cili­ano will take host­ing du­ties for Gold Zone as well.

“[N]et­works are do­ing whatever they can to con­nect the most avid and hard-core view­ers,” said Al Tomp­kins, seni­or fac­ulty for broad­cast and on­line at the Poynter In­sti­tute. And with the Olympic Games as many as a dozen time zones away, Amer­ic­an fans have a tricky task nav­ig­at­ing early-morn­ing events — es­pe­cially when on­line spoil­ers have a tend­ency to ru­in the sus­pense of tape-delayed broad­casts.

For the diehards, wait­ing for NBC to show a pared-down re-air­ing of the day’s events in a prime-time block simply isn’t good enough. And the net­work is bet­ting that the faster, more com­pre­hens­ive cov­er­age of Gold Zone will bring in those pas­sion­ate fans, even if they are small in num­ber.

The “whip-around” broad­cast isn’t new; Gold Zone de­b­uted dur­ing the 2012 Lon­don Games. But un­like its pre­de­cessor, this year’s it­er­a­tion will have hosts, which NBC ex­ec­ut­ives touted as a ma­jor im­prove­ment. A spokes­man for NBC said the show’s concept, though sim­il­ar, wasn’t ne­ces­sar­ily a spin-off of Red­Zone. But he did high­light Si­cili­ano’s ex­per­i­ence with the format. “He’s done a great job with this type of present­a­tion in the past,” he said.

And while the net­work tries to high­light its niche sports, it’s giv­ing more at­ten­tion to the mar­quee events as well. NBC is plan­ning to roll out “Olympic Ice,” a daily fig­ure-skat­ing-fo­cused stu­dio show to cov­er that per­en­ni­ally pop­u­lar event.

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