NBC has a lot riding on the competition. With the network owning the Olympic broadcasting rights, “Today” transported its team led by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie to Sochi and brought in a parade of Olympic athletes for interviews each morning. With all the attention on Sochi, a loss last week would have been seen as a major disappointment for the network.
NBC had hoped in London that a good performance during the Olympics would make viewers forget the drama surrounding Ann Curry’s exit and propel “Today” back into first in the ratings regularly. Instead, ABC and its ascendant morning team of Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos had not lost a single week until last week.
As opposed to the 210,000 viewer gap between the two shows last week, NBC won by 1.88 million viewers during the first week of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and by 1.61 million viewers during the first week of the London games. ABC actually managed to win one day last week, on Tuesday, Nielsen said.
With the time difference, the “Today” show has been doing its broadcast in the late afternoon Sochi time. A run of good weather allowed its team to broadcast from an outdoor studio in sweaters while much of its audience in the United States was shivering.
NBC wanted the attention boost it has received with the Olympics telecast to help launch its late-night lineup of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers. Similarly, the network is hoping Sochi can give “Today” some momentum in the morning when it returns to the States.