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NBC To Air Figure Skating Live From Sochi Olympics Without Tape Delay

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Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir skate together during the P&G & Wal-Mart 'Tribute to American Legends of the Ice' at Izod Center on December 11, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. | Maddie Meyer via Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) — Television viewers can watch figure skating live during February's Sochi Olympics, a shift by NBC from past games outside North America.

Every performance will air on cable channel NBCSN during the day, the network said Tuesday, with the key moments shown on tape delay on NBC that night as in previous Olympics.

Fans will see the women's gold-medal-winning performance on TV when it happens, instead of waiting until that evening. NBC had started streaming every sport live online at the 2012 Summer Games in London and discovered it didn't hurt prime-time ratings — and may have even helped. But the network still received some criticism for not airing popular events live on TV.

There is a nine-hour time difference between Sochi and the U.S. Eastern time zone. With the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC could broadcast figure skating live in prime time.

The NBCSN figure skating coverage starts the morning of Feb. 8 with the new team event and goes through the pairs, ice dance and men's and women's short programs and free skates.

NBCSN will air 230 total hours of coverage across multiple sports, which NBC said is a record for a cable channel. It is in about 80 million homes — about 70 percent of the country's households with televisions.

The figure skating coverage is an opportunity to attract viewers to the network formerly known as Versus, which became part of NBC Sports with the Comcast merger in January 2011. It has drawn strong ratings for popular events such as soccer at the London Olympics and the NHL playoffs, but its audience drops off sharply at other times.

Its broadcasts from Sochi will include 16 men's hockey games through the bronze medal round. There will be three qualifying games featuring the U.S. team, highlighted by its matchup with host Russia on Feb. 15.

Seven women's hockey games will include the meeting of the powerhouse American and Canadian teams Feb. 12.

NBCSN will also air live gold medal coverage of events in bobsled, Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, speed skating and ski jumping.

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