Unknown to most viewers, TV programmers can put commercials wherever they like. The benefit here? If, for example, there is no advertising in a given half-hour period of time, it doesn't officially count in TV ratings and viewership.
NBC did just that on Wednesday night -- shifting all its advertising out of the first prime-time half-hour of its Olympic coverage. Why? Because it was going up against the all-powerful "American Idol" - and who wants to lose to that big TV franchise?
Turns out NBC still lost to "Idol" - but the contest was a bit closer than it might have been. This came a week after the Olympics beat the big Fox show last Wednesday -- the first time "Idol" has lost to any TV show in six years.
Typically NBC's viewership for any Olympics climbs throughout the evening. NBC's didn't disclose its reasoning for the move. However, we can surmise its logic -- that giving national advertisers a later position garners better ratings.
Looking at the Super Bowl comparison, this would be like moving all those advertisers from the first and second quarters of the game to the third and fourth quarter -- when things typically start to get interesting.
The two-hour-long "American Idol" on Wednesday averaged 22.8 million viewers and an 8.6 rating/23 share for the 18-49 viewers. From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on NBC, the Olympics averaged 19.5 million viewers and a 5.2 rating/14 share among 18-49ers.
But looking at only 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., NBC pulled in a 5.5 rating among 18-49 and 20.1 million viewers. The network pulled a lowly 3.7 rating and 15.6 million viewers in the 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. half hour.
All this might seems silly to the average consumer - like NBC was trying to hide something. But it's just business. NBC has also done this before with other Olympics.
A couple of years ago CBS messed around with putting extra advertising messages in the first-half of "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" just to get the better, early program ratings.
NBC also did the same with "The Today Show" in the past -- moving advertising messages out of the low-rated first half-hour of that two-hour daily program.
If the industry moves to more granular exact minute, or second-by-second ratings, expect different messaging to be offered, as well as different ad scheduling.
But it's probably not what viewers want; definitely not a commercial-free ninth inning of a tied seventh World Series game.