NBC's Winter Olympics: Weak Ratings Aren't Only Ill Effect

Even in the worst of times, a network paying dearly for the Olympics broadcast could always count on one benefit that makes whatever rating ice spill happened seem like a new figure skating move: good promotion for its prime-time shows.

That may not be the case any more. For NBC, its ho-hum ratings aren't the real test. NBC's new shows--"Conviction," "Deal or No Deal," "The Office," "My Name is Earl"--hope to get the ratings kick in the butt the Olympics traditionally awards.

Don't expect much. NBC's household ratings for the games hovered around a less than stellar 12.0 to 13.0 in prime time, which was expected, for the most part. The Winter Olympics are no Summer Olympics, of course, where ratings are always sunnier.

But this 12 rating is not the 12 rating of Olympics past. There's more programming, Internet, and mobile phone distraction, which, for NBC, equals subtraction.



The good news is that the Winter Olympics is still an older female viewing affair. NBC is pushing out midseason shows appealing to that audience--somewhat.

"Conviction" is new from Dick Wolf and somewhat removed from his "Law & Order" franchise--perhaps not exactly a female draw. Game show "Deal or No Deal" is more up NBC's alley, as older female viewers generally love game shows. Not only that, but host Howie Mandel makes women giggle. "Heist" is a new cops and robbers drama set in Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive--where good midday shopping gets interfered with. Certain women would consider that a crime.

NBC has the Olympics for several more turns in the coming years--that's where the real trouble awaits. For the future, in theory, will deliver many more million DVR devices that will not only zap through paid advertising, but network promotion time as well.

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