NEW YORK (AP) — A look at NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics:
HOCKEY BATTLE: Men's hockey fans who don't get any of NBC's cable subsidiaries don't have to worry about a repeat of Sunday night, when the network paid little attention to the riveting game between the U.S. and Canada during prime-time.
For a gold medal, the U.S. men's team must play and win three more games, including Sunday's finale. Each game is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET, and each will be televised live by NBC. Sunday's controversy has nothing to do with it; NBC said before the Olympics started that it would televise the games at that time no matter what countries were involved.
It's a different story for the U.S. women, who face Canada for the gold medal on Thursday.
The women's hockey final is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET and, like the men's game with Canada, is supposed to be on MSNBC.
By the time NBC's prime-time schedule starts two hours later, the women's game will be approaching the third period. It would be surprising if NBC didn't check in with the game if it is close at the end. "Anything is possible," NBC Sports spokesman Adam Freifeld said.
Hockey fans went to message boards and blogs to express disappointment and bewilderment about why the network chose not to televise the men's game Sunday. But that runs counter to how NBC has televised the Olympics for two decades now; it prefers packaged material in prime-time with an eye on an audience that is more female than male. No live event other than figure skating would get such attention in prime-time.
It was only in the final minute of the hockey game Sunday that NBC broke in from pre-taped bobsledding to show it.
"We didn't choose one over the other," Freifeld said. "We chose both, and the numbers validate our decision."
NBC's prime-time Olympics coverage had 23.3 million viewers on Sunday, while the hockey game brought 8.2 million to MSNBC — an impressive 31.5 million people combined on two NBC Universal networks.
RATINGS: NBC's Monday night Olympics coverage was seen by an average of 20.9 million viewers, the Nielsen Co. said. It was the smallest audience for the Olympics than any other night except last Tuesday, when "American Idol" was the competition.
NBC says that more than half of all Americans (171 million people) have watched at least some of the Olympics competition on one of the NBC Universal networks.
Its research also shows that the Olympics have been family-friendly viewing. The network said three-quarters of viewers said they use the Olympics to help teach good values to their children. Three-quarters of parents also said the games represent a good chance to spend time with their families.
And if you catch yourself sniffling, you're not alone: NBC says 35 percent of their viewers surveyed reported crying or getting misty-eyed while watching Olympics competition. It's 25 percent among men.