Games start fast for NBC

Olympics come on strong in ratings

HOLLYWOOD — NBC has gotten off to a reasonably strong start with the Summer Olympics, with Friday and Saturday ratings putting the net ahead of the pace set in 1992 and slightly behind 1996.

According to preliminary national data from Nielsen, the primetime portion of Friday’s Opening Ceremony from Sydney, Australia, delivered a 16.1 rating in homes and a 29 share. That’s a 17% increase over the 13.8/29 for the Barcelona games in 1992 and 6% better than the 15.2/29 for Seoul in 1988.

Saturday’s prelim 13.6/25 primetime rating was off 12% from the 15.4/29 for 1988. There is no meaningful comparison to 1992 because the Opening Ceremony was held on Saturday that year.

This year’s taped Games, of course, don’t figure to challenge the ratings delivered by the 1996 Summer Olympics from Atlanta, which featured plenty of live action. The live telecast of the opening night from Atlanta, for example, garnered a whopping 23.6/45 — the second-highest-rated Opening Ceremony ever (Winter or Summer).

NBC is shooting for roughly a 17.5 homes rating for its 16 nights of primetime coverage, about on par with 1988 (17.7) and 1992 (17.1) but well shy of 1996 (21.6). Peacock execs should have a better idea of where these Games will rank after the numbers come in for the first few days of this week, when the Olympics face formidable competition from the likes of “Monday Night Football” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

NBC’s 2000 Sydney Olympics two-day coverage stands at an estimated 14.5/27 — down 30% from 1996 (20.5/41), up 5% from 1992 (13.8/29) and off 6% from 1988 (15.4/30).

The Peacock’s showing on Friday was its best in homes and key demos since the Summer Games in Atlanta four years ago, while Saturday’s rates as its best since Game 1 of the World Series last October.

CBS’ repeats of summer smash “Survivor” don’t appear to be posing much of a challenge to the Olympics. On Friday, for example, a repeat of the first episode of “Survivor” (4.6) managed just about one-fourth the overnight score of the Olympics for the 9 o’clock hour (18.2).

On Saturday, the Eye’s “Big Brother” scored a 4.6 in overnights compared with the Olympics’ 14.9 from 8-9.

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