Auburn researcher part of team finding women’s primetime coverage less than men’s for Sochi Olympics

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Through nine nights of NBC’s Sochi Olympic broadcast, male athletes have again received the bulk of the primetime coverage, but not by as large a margin as in past years.

Lauren Smith, an assistant professor in Auburn University’s School of Communication and Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts, along with a research team consisting of assistant professor James Angelini of the University of Delaware, professor Andrew Billings of the University of Alabama and associate professor Paul MacArthur of Utica College are charting the clock-time of the Olympic telecast. Thus far, male athletes have received 47.6 percent of NBC’s primetime coverage, women athletes have received 37.6 percent of the coverage and pairs events have received the remaining 14.8 percent.

The researchers indicate the gap has always been wider in the Winter Games than in the Summer Games, yet this gap is closer to equity than ever before. When considering that men’s figure skating has already occurred, while ladies figure skating is currently taking place, that gap is likely to move closer to gender equity.

“Viewers like to see the United States win,” Smith said. “In looking at the medal standings, the U.S. women are slightly ahead of the U.S. men, meaning NBC may be following the medals in their coverage, resulting in increased coverage for women when compared to previous Olympics.”

Such a trend was found by the researchers in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, where women received the majority of the coverage for the first time since the studies began with the 1994 Winter Games.

Once women’s figure skating is shown, will the women athletes reach equity with their men counterparts? The researchers simply say: stay tuned.

Contact:
Lauren Smith, Auburn University College of Liberal Arts, (334) 844-7272; lrsmith@auburn.edu, or Mike Clardy, Auburn University Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)