Olympics executive producer Jim Bell said the network was fine with the way reporter Christen Cooper handled her post-race interview with bronze medalist Bode Miller Sunday.
Cooper pressed Miller on his reaction to winning after the recent death of his brother. Miller eventually broke down in tears and NBC, in its taped coverage, carried the interview and stayed with the shot of him crying and eventually being consoled by his wife.
That decision drew some heat on social media and in the press. But in a conference call with reporters Feb. 17, Bell pointed out that Miller himself had defended the interview on social media and later on Today.
Bell said he understood the shoot-from-the-hip reaction from social media and some columnists, but that the storyline about Miller's brother—and one about a skeleton racer's miscarriage that was part of her on-air profile—were part of the back stories of the games and giving viewers insight into the athletes.
He pointed out that no less a journalist than Tom Brokaw had set up the Miller storyline about his brother. "I think the way [the interview] played out is fine."
Bell was asked about reports that Olympic ratings were down from both Torino and Vancouver, and suggestions that it was because there were no real compelling stories to tell. Bell begged to differ, first saying the ratings weren't down from Torino and pointing to the Russian hockey game—which set a rating record for hockey on NBCSN—the success of snowboarders and America's champion ice dancers as some strong stories. He conceded another American gold medal or two wouldn't hurt, but that is always the case. Otherwise, he said, "we couldn't be happier."
The call was primarily held to mark the return of Bob Costas to the primetime anchor chair after a six-day hiatus to treat viral conjunctivitis, a story that became part of the games.
"Our long national nightmare is over," said Bell, "Bob is back."
Costas said on the call that he was not comfortable with being part of the story, but said it was unavoidable. He also joked that his eye problems had gone viral, both literally and figuratively, though he said he did not follow social media and had not seen much of the coverage of him.
Costas said his eyes would still be red tonight as he returns to the anchor chair, but that the real problem had been the blurry vision and light sensitivity that had prevented him from working. In fact, for the first two or three days he had to be in a darkened room.
But NBC hooked up a feed to his hotel room, he said, so he was able to watch coverage, as well as WNBC New York, KNBC Los Angeles, NBCSN, CNN and ESPN. "I got what I needed," he said.