During its many years broadcasting the Olympics, NBC has learned the hard way what its viewers will and won’t tolerate when it comes to offering sneak previews of its entertainment shows during Olympics coverage.
In 2012, the network aired the premiere of short-lived sitcom Animal Practice in the middle of London’s closing ceremony, which “pissed everybody off,” Jeff Bader, president of program planning, strategy and research for NBC Entertainment, recalled in 2016.
Since then, the network has shifted its strategy when it comes to mixing its entertainment and Olympics content. While NBC offers half-hour samples of its shows for Olympics viewers—its Pyeongchang Winter Games audience has averaged 18.5 million a night—the network now delays that programming until after its sports coverage has wrapped.
That will continue on Sunday, as NBC airs a new episode of its midseason sitcom A.P. Bio at 10:30 pm ET at the conclusion of the Pyeongchang closing ceremony.
“We’ve done previews of new, half-hour shows, in a couple of choice time periods in past Olympics,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. “And while those delivered big numbers, I don’t know that [it’s because] suddenly the show became a huge hit show.” (In 2012, neither Animal Practice nor the Matthew Perry comedy Go On, both of which aired during the London Olympics, made it to the second season.)
That’s why NBC is changing things up this year: Instead of airing a series premiere, it will premiere the second episode of A.P. Bio, which debuted on the network Feb. 1. (Sunday’s episode, “Teacher Jail,” as well as the episode that will air March 1, have also been available to stream on NBC.com all month.)
“It’s a new episode of a relatively new show,” said Greenblatt. “It’s got a male appeal, there’s a really great male lead of the show, and I think it will feel like it’s in the right frame of mind for the sports audience.”
In addition to its A.P. Bio sneak peek, the network also packed plenty of promos for its shows during the Winter Olympics coverage.
“There’s no hard and fast rules about what works and doesn’t work,” said Greenblatt of the network’s promo strategy. “There’s a large audience coming into the network for 18 days. Our feeling was [that we should] throw as much of the current network shows into that mix, and hopefully we’ll hit millions and millions of more potential viewers.”
Greenblatt said “there’s probably truth” to theories that network promos won’t suddenly cause sports viewers to flock en masse to network entertainment shows. “But my feeling is the more eyeballs, the more we will promote everything across the board,” he added.
During the Rio Olympics in 2016, NBC broadcast an Olympics-themed episode of its comedy Superstore (which was renewed yesterday for Season 4), two days before the end of the Summer Olympics. Then, after the closing ceremony, it aired a half-hour version of The Voice’s blind auditions from the show’s 11th cycle.