Will NBC Let the Rio Olympics Sidetrack Its News Coverage?

“Today” and “Nightly News” are airing live from Rio, but most CNBC and MSNBC programming won’t be impacted

NBC has already kicked off its Summer Olympics from Rio de Janeiro ahead of Friday night’s opening ceremony but as many loyal viewers rely on the network — and its sister stations — for news, prompting the question: Will NBC’s newscasts transform into Olympic infomercials for the next three weeks?

The “Today” show and “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” will both air live from Rio through Aug. 19. A press release sent last month from NBC News said that the “Today” show “will once again begin America’s day with great stories and adventures from the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games.”

On Friday, the majority of the first hour of “Today” was focused on the Olympics and an exclusive interview with GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was pushed to the second hour. Typically, “Today” airs hard news and major exclusives in the first hour of the show.

“Nightly News” also touted its upcoming Olympics coverage, claiming “unparalleled behind-the-scenes access and interviews with the athletes making headlines in Rio.” But, Holt’s newscast led Thursday’s show from Rio with four stories that weren’t related to the Olympics.

The network’s Sunday morning political program “Meet the Press” will be pre-empted twice during the Olympics in the middle of a wild election year. “MTP” recently had its most-watched July sweeps since 2008, so political junkies will presumably be disappointed when they tune in for Chuck Todd and instead see Bob Costas.

MSNBC is scheduled to bump daytime news programming for events including beach volleyball, shooting, judo, sailing and table tennis. However, the left-leaning cable news network will stick with its regular primetime lineup.

On most days, MSNBC’s Olympics coverage will be from noon-5 p.m. ET to allow political shows such as “Morning Joe” and “MTP Daily” to air their normal times. In total, MSNBC will cover 78.5 hours of Rio Olympic programming, while CNBC will air 42 hours. CNBC’s coverage will air after the market closes and won’t impact its traditional business and financial programming.

On Friday afternoon, NBCNews.com led with a story about U.S. spies protecting the Rio games and prominently featured headlines for seven other Olympics-related stories. At the same time, CNN’s website led with a Donald Trump story and only mentioned the Rio games once in the Top Stories section.

NBC has sold $1.2 billion in advertising for the Rio games, so it’s safe to assume execs don’t mind missing out on a few news stories. NBC will have 6,800 hours of coverage from Rio on 11 channels and up to 41 live stream, according to the New York Times.

“Today” co-hosts Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Hoda Kotb will host the opening ceremony and a total of 170 NBC commentators will partake in the games, including legendary newser Tom Brokaw. Pregnant Savannah Guthrie stayed back in New York and will lead NBC News’ coverage that requires someone to physically be in America, including this morning’s interview with Pence.