Lindsey Vonn won't make trip to Sochi for NBC coverage

Thursday, January 23, 2014 | 8:00 p.m. CST
Lindsey Vonn, who will not compete at Sochi because of a knee injury, will not be able to make the trip to Russia to play a role in NBC's coverage, either, the network said Thursday. Vonn is still being considered as a stateside correspondent for the network.

NEW YORK — Lindsey Vonn won't be at the Sochi Olympics to ski, and she won't be there working for NBC, either.

Jim Bell, executive producer of Olympics coverage for NBC, said Thursday that Vonn's knee injury left her unable to travel to Russia. NBC had expressed interest in Vonn after the 2010 Olympic downhill champion announced this month she wouldn't be able to seek gold again.

Bell said a stateside role for Vonn is still being considered.

NBC had hoped for Vonn's star power at the Olympics, an event with great importance for NBC and its cable cousins. NBC's networks are showing more than 1,500 hours of competition beginning Feb. 6. The network hopes the attention drawn to the games can boost the new NBC Sports cable network, as well as launch new late-night entertainment shows with Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers.

Bell said he doesn't expect the Sochi Olympics to be as popular as the 2010 Vancouver Games, primarily because of the time difference. The Vancouver Olympics averaged 24.4 million viewers in prime time, according to the Nielsen company.

Unlike Sochi, NBC had the opportunity to show live events prime time in Vancouver, "and that's a special thing," Bell said.

NBC experimented with airing live streams of competition during the London Olympics. Contrary to fears that prime-time taped coverage would diminish interest, the move actually increased interest, Bell said. NBC is taking things a step further this winter by showing live figure skating competition during the day on cable television, even though skating will be a marquee event for prime time.

The major exception to making things available live is for the Olympic opening ceremony, which will not even be streamed online. The ceremony is particularly important for NBC; it drew 32.6 million viewers in Vancouver, easily the most-watched night of those Olympics.

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