The University of Alabama

UA Researcher Finds Gender Gap in Olympic Coverage is Narrowing

Andrew Billings

Dr. Andrew Billings

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A University of Alabama researcher was part of a team who found that, in the combined 18 nights of NBC’s Sochi Olympic broadcast, male athletes received the plurality of the network’s primetime coverage, but not nearly to the extent of past Winter Olympic analyses.

Dr. Andrew Billings, the Ronald Reagan Chair of Broadcasting at UA, along with a research team consisting of Dr. James Angelini, of the University of Delaware, Paul MacArthur, a professor at Utica College, and Dr. Lauren Smith, of Auburn University, charted the amount of time the NBC broadcast network devoted to male and female athletes on its primetime Olympic telecast.

For the 18-night composite of NBC’s primetime telecast, men athletes received 45.4 percent of NBC’s primetime coverage, women athletes received 41.4 percent of the coverage, and pairs events received the remaining 13.2 percent. The four percent gap is substantially less than the average gap of 20 percent found within primetime telecasts from 1994-2010.

“U.S. men and women each won the same number of medals in Sochi, so the factor of American success was largely neutralized in this analysis,” said Billings, author of “Olympic Media: Inside the Biggest Show on Television.”

“While not representing clock-time equity, the gap represents progress for coverage of women’s sports.”

Clock-Time by Gender in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Event Men Women Pair/Mixed Total
Alpine Skiing 3:24:24 3:39:23 —– 7:03:47
Biathlon 0:00:55 0:00:49 —–** 0:01:44
Bobsled 1:38:27 0:59:22 —– 2:37:49
Cross Country 0:00:24 0:00:13 —– 0:00:37
Curling 0:00:17 0:00:15 —– 0:00:32
Figure Skating 2:42:10 5:32:06 5:12:37 13:26:53
Freestyle Skiing 3:04:12 1:36:33 —– 4:40:45
Ice Hockey 0:37:58 0:06:18 —– 0:44:16
Luge 0:00:04 0:21:57 —–** 0:22:01
Nordic Combined 0:00:10 0:00:00* —– 0:00:10
Short Track 1:33:07 0:12:05 —– 1:45:12
Skeleton 0:16:54 0:55:36 —– 1:12:30
Ski Jumping 0:40:15 0:00:15 —– 0:40:30
Snowboarding 2:26:24 2:29:38 —– 4:56:02
Speed Skating 1:28:40 0:25:13 —– 1:53:53
Total 17:54:21 16:19:43 5:12:37 39:26:41
Overall percentage 45.4 41.4 13.2
When excluding pairs 52.3 47.7
*At the time of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics there are no women’s events in the discipline of Nordic Combined.**Mixed gender events were competed in the disciplines of luge and biathlon during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but were not featured during NBC’s primetime telecast.

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