Olympic Viewing: NBC’s Poorly Timed Commercial

APTOPIX London Olympics Artistic Gymnastics Women
Gabby Douglas
U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas acknowledges the audience after being declared winner of the gold medal during the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

NBC says no offense was intended by a poorly timed promotional ad featuring a monkey on gymnastics rings that aired on the network directly following a commentary by Bob Costas on Gabby Douglas’ gold medal inspiring other African-American girls to take up the sport.

The gymnastics-themed ad for the upcoming NBC comedy “Animal Practice” was specifically timed to run late Thursday night following the women’s gold medal competition. NBC said it was scheduled to run before the network knew about Costas’ commentary.

“Much of America has fallen in love with Gabby Douglas,” Costas said. “Also safe to say that there are some young African-American girls out there who tonight are saying to themselves, ‘Hey, I’d like to try that, too.'”

Then NBC switched to the commercial with the small, widely grinning monkey on the rings. Blacks in the past have been disparagingly referred to as monkeys to the point where it is considered a common slur.

“Gabby Douglas’ gold medal performance last night was an historic and inspiring achievement,” NBC Universal spokeswoman Liz Fischer said. “The spot promoting ‘Animal Practice,’ which has run three times previously, is one in a series with an Olympic theme, which have been scheduled for maximum exposure. Certainly no offense was intended.”

It’s the second time during the Olympics that a promotional ad has proven troublesome for NBC. It ran a “Today” show promo showing swimmer Missy Franklin holding her first gold medal a few minutes before airing the race where she won it.

RATINGS: Ratings continue to be very strong for NBC. Thursday night’s prime-time telecast, featuring Douglas’ win and a gold medal swim by Michael Phelps, was seen by 36.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That’s 7 million more than the corresponding night four years ago in Beijing. NBC also said that five Olympic events have been streamed online by at least 1 million people. The top event, streamed 1.46 million times, was the U.S. women’s gymnastics team winning the gold medal Tuesday, followed by Phelps’ gold medal swim over Ryan Lochte.

BRANDI TIME: It has been a rough Olympics for soccer analyst Brandi Chastain, what with Hope Solo trashing her on Twitter. Let’s give Chastain some credit for prescience. Coming out of halftime of the U.S. team’s 2-0 win over New Zealand on Friday, she preached patience for the U.S. team, noting the Americans had squandered scoring opportunities by rushing things near the opposition goal. Within three minutes, American Alex Morgan did precisely what Chastain had been pointing out, hurrying a shot that went wide right.

WEATHER: Jim Cantore is taking some time off from The Weather Channel to provide London forecasts as part of Olympic coverage (his network is owned by NBC Universal). Friday was beautiful, but Cantore suggested the good weather was short-lived. “It’s going to get a little ugly and it can certainly impact the track and field events,” he said.

PLAY THE GAME: Beach volleyball analyst Kevin Wong didn’t take it easy on American defending gold medal winners Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhousser during their upset loss to Italy on Friday, criticizing them for having “no energy, no emotion.” After one missed shot, he said, “Phil stops playing. Get in there and play the game.”

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Compelling look back at Kerri Strug and the gold medal-winning American women’s gymnastics team of 1996 opened the prime-time broadcast.

SUMMER VACATION: “What did I do on my summer vacation? How do you answer that question?” Andrea Kremer’s question to Missy Franklin after her gold medal-winning swim. Huh? Granted, there’s no time for much more than the basics in those post-race interviews, but Kremer hasn’t matched the high standards of Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines on NBC’s swimming announcing team.

QUOTE: “Gosh, I’m going to miss this man.” — Gaines after another gold medal performance by Phelps.

KEITH: OK, it’s got nothing to do with the competition. But hearing Keith Richards’ ringing guitar each night on the Omega timekeeper commercial makes us smile.

UPCOMING: After dominating Nigeria in its most recent game, the U.S. men’s basketball team takes on Lithuania on Saturday.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.