NBC's Torino Olympics Serves Up Predictable Ratings So Far

NBC hasn't fooled anyone with its Torino version of the Winter Olympics. Everyone knew the score ahead of time. So far, no surprises.

There are few stories to tell so far: U.S. skier Bode Miller came up empty in the downhill event and U.S. figure skater Michelle Kwan bowed out because of an injury--more or less the same one that kept her out of last month's U.S. Championships. As far as the TV controversy was concerned, Miller wasn't holding a can of Miller Beer at the top of the mountain; Kwan wasn't found hissing other skaters.

NBC doesn't count on such drama--that's only a bonus. Advertisers also take the conservative approach. That said, NBC's marksmanship on ratings guarantees has been pretty much on the money so far. It promised advertisers between a 12 and 14 prime-time household rating. On Friday, the opening ceremonies, NBC pulled in a 12.8 rating / 21 share.



No. These aren't the big numbers of the last Winter Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City. But how could they be? First off, those games were in the U.S., viewed in easily watchable time zones, which gave the ratings a boost. In addition, the U.S. was only a few months removed from 9/11. All eyes focused back then on something dramatic or, perhaps, tragic to happen. Neither occurred. Ratings still soared for the 2002 first-night ceremonies to a 25.5 household rating/42 share.

For NBC, that's the good news. Now comes the bad.

These Olympics are up against some competition--major original episodes from the likes of "American Idol," "Desperate Housewives," big-rated network heavyweight shows. Considering the lower urgency of watching these games, since most of the coverage will be on a taped delay basis thanks to the European time zone differences, NBC could be in for a tough bobsled ride over the last two weeks of February.

NBC will take heart in the fact it pulled in a still-strong 6.6 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 on that first night, strong numbers that are always welcomed in this ratings-challenged world. NBC will at least make a dent in the February sweep, as well as look to boost its still struggling prime-time lineup with scores of promos spots for its shows.

Either way, it's all downhill from here.

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