More Falls And Skating Scrapes For NBC's Olympics

Showing surprising downhill momentum, NBC's Winter Olympics was run roughshod by Fox's "American Idol." This is the second time in five nights that regularly scheduled network programming leveled the Olympics.

On Tuesday, "Idol" skated off with a crushing 11.4 rating/29 share to NBC's out-of-the-running 5.6 rating/14 share among adult 18-49 viewers. Even Fox's next show, "House," bested the Olympics with a 7.7/14. Worse still, NBC aired two of its most popular events--ice skating and downhill skiing.

Once considered the elite of high-rated special network programming, the Olympics have now suffered two blows in five days. On Sunday, ABC's tag-team of "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" also beat the Olympics--albeit by a smaller amount.

Fox's two hours earned a 9.6 rating in 18-49 for the combined two hours--easily outdistancing NBC. Fox also pulled in 25 percent more overall average viewers at 23.2 million. NBC pulled in 18.6 million viewers.

This is unlike previous years when the Winter Olympics aired, where networks ran and hid and typically put on rerun programming. Modern network programmers now have no fear of attempting to combat even the strongest of special TV programming.



"The networks have been aggressively programming," said Shari Anne Brill, senior vp of programming analysis for Carat USA. "NBC never had to go mano a mano."

Brill's analysis is simple: Younger viewers prefer, and are more loyal to, their TV shows. The Olympics--especially the Winter Olympics with figure skating--skews to an increasingly older viewer. NBC is also hurting because it is not the network it was four years ago--the number one broadcasting network among 18-49 viewers.

"They didn't have the same promotional platform they did four years ago," said Brill. "Back then other networks didn't even really counter-program on Thursday nights [where NBC was strong]."

A real eye-opener was the distance "Idol" put on the Olympics--which was a greater win than ABC's on Sunday night.

"I'm surprised by the spread in the number--not about that 'Idol' would win," says Brill.

It's not going to get any easier.

Last night, NBC faced another "Idol" episode, as well as a first-run episode of ABC's heavyweight drama hit, "Lost."

All this put NBC in a difficult position--especially against other Winter Olympics. Ratings for the fifth night were down almost 50 percent in the 18-49 versus the fifth night of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and just about the same amount against the fifth night of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Next story loading loading..