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NBC wins gold, but Games tame

Ratings lag behind Atlanta, but Peacock dominates week

The Summer Olympics have helped NBC claim weekly ratings gold for the first time in several months, though numbers for the Games are significantly down vs. comparable years.

According to Nielsen, NBC dominated the Sept. 11-17 sesh with its largest weekly audience (16.57 million) and biggest adults 18-49 rating (6.3/18) since October — a week that included the first two nights of the World Series. It’s NBC’s first week as the most-watched net since June and its first as the demo king since July.

The Peacock net’s 66% advantage over second-place ABC in adults 18-49 (6.3 vs. 3.8) is its largest of the season.

But as for the Games, the three-day national homes average (14.6) puts Sydney 32% behind the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (21.4).

The ratings for this year’s events are 10% behind 1992 in Barcelona (16.2) and 1988 in Seoul (16.2). Like the Sydney games, those two Olympics took place outside the U.S., with the States carrying very little live action. (This year’s Olympics is all taped.)

This year’s games are sputtering even more among key demos. The three-day average in adults 18-49 (8.9) is off 17% from the combined average for 1992 and 1988, while the drop is 21% in men 18-49 — perhaps due to increased competition from other sporting events, such as pro and college football and baseball.

It’s too early to predict that NBC will not meet its projected homes rating of 17.5; but to reach its goal, the Peacock will almost certainly need major audience involvement in personal storylines of American athletes.

Thanks to population increases, though, these Olympics have become the most-watched non-U.S. Summer Games in history. NBC Sports estimates 111 million people have tuned in to at least some of the Olympics.

While Olympics ratings are down, some of the big guns that have gone up against it have fired blanks. CBS’ “Survivor” repeats have been virtually ignored by the viewing public, while “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” fell to its lowest firstrun Sunday numbers to date.

The Eye’s “Big Brother” took a hit opposite the Olympics on Friday but rallied for its best Saturday to date. CBS placed third for the week by all measures, including a tick better than Fox in adults 18-49 (2.9 vs. 2.8).

UPN joined NBC as the only nets to improve vs. the same week last year in both total viewers and adults 18-49. Netlet had strong showings on Monday (with comedies) and Thursday (with wrestling).

The three nights of Olympics captured three of the week’s top four spots in adults 18-49 and viewers. ABC’s “Monday Night Football” placed third in the demo while the net’s Tuesday seg of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” ranked third in viewers.

The Alphabet placed five shows among the week’s top 10.

Broadcast nets’ adults 18-49 averages for Sept. 11-17: NBC, a 6.3 rating/18 share (up 58% in rating vs. a year ago); ABC, 3.7/11 (down 10%); CBS, 2.9/8 (down 17%); Fox, 2.8/8 (down 12%); UPN, 1.7/5 (up 31%); the WB, 1.1/3 (down 15%).

Adults 18-49 averages for the top cable services: HBO, 1.1/3 (up 10%); ESPN, 1.0/3 (down 9%); USA, 0.8/2 (down 33%), tied with TBS, 0.8/2 (even); TNT, 0.7/2 (even), tied with Lifetime, 0.7/2 (up 17%).

Monday

The Olympics topped “Monday Night Football” on Sept. 18, but it was a strong showing for each.

The Dallas-Washington contest drew fewer viewers than the Games (19.43 million vs. 21.05) but pulled ahead in adults 18-49 (8.7/24 vs. 8.2/23). The numbers top “Monday Night Football’s” seasonal averages of a year ago (19.38 million, 8.3 in A18-49) and were up sharply from the week-earlier’s Jets-Patriots matchup (17.3 million, 7.8 in A18-34).

NBC took the night in adults 18-49 by 7 shares over ABC, with the Olympics dominating the 8-9 p.m. hour that didn’t feature football.

Sunday

The Olympics, featuring swimming and the men’s triathlon, ruled primetime with a 9.4 rating in adults 18-49 — NBC’s best since Michael Jordan appeared in his final NBA game in June 1998.

Several shows did manage to post some solid ratings opposite the Games, including ABC spec “The ’70s: A Decade That Changed Television,” which performed better in adults 18-49 from 7-9 p.m. (2.6/7) than 10 of the net’s past 12 “Wonderful World of Disney” offerings.

Also, an original “PJs” logged the WB’s best 18-49 score in its 8:30 slot (1.4/3) since February (“Felicity”).

Saturday

NBC’s Olympics (7.8) topped its combined CBS-ABC-Fox competition in adults 18-49 (7.2), posting its best demo score on the night since October 1997 (Game 1 of the World Series).

“Big Brother” (6.38 million, 2.8/9 in 18-49), which has moved its nominations night to this night as the series winds down, delivered its best Saturday numbers to date.

Friday

The Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Games (16.2/29 in homes, 9.5/29) boosted NBC to 21-share victories in both categories, its strongest Friday since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Night was up in all key demos, as well, including 18-49 gains of 14% and 13% respectively vs. 1988 and 1992. Compared with the live opening ceremony from Atlanta in 1996 (14.9), this year’s 18-49 rating was off 36%.

ABC actually excelled opposite the Olympics, with four repeat segs of “Whose Line Is It Anyway” averaging a 3.2 in A18-49 8-10 p.m. and topping everything the net has aired on Friday since May 19 (“Daytime Emmy Awards”).

Fox’s “Music Mania” (4.08 million, 1.7/5 in A18-49) and a repeat of the opening episode of “Survivor” (5.48 million, 2.3/7) flopped.

Thursday

NBC logged its best Thursday 18-49 score (5.2/15) since May, easily topping ABC (4.0/12), which was saddled by a 10 p.m. Peter Jennings spec on the Presidential candidates that fell to the net’s lowest news rating in the hour (3.5/11) since December.

Conclusion of Fox two-night mini “Dean Koontz’s Sole Survivor” (2.8/8) matched the net’s second-best 18-49 rating of the summer.

UPN’s “WWF Smackdown!” pinned down its best score ever in women 18-34 (3.1/10) and best rating among male teens (9.9/34) in 14 weeks.

Wednesday

CBS won in adults 18-49 for the 16th straight week behind strong numbers for “Big Brother” (5.5/18) and OK marks for the first Latin Grammy Awards (3.2/9). The former, nearing the end of its three-month run, rallied to its best ratings for any episode that didn’t follow “Survivor.”

ABC’s limited-run docu series “Hopkins 24/7” (4.3/12) won its 10 p.m. hour with its best demo rating yet.

NBC’s “West Wing” delivered its best 18-49 rating of the summer (4.0/11), while ABC’s “Spin City” had its best showing (4.2/11) in 12 weeks.

Tuesday

ABC won the night easily in viewers but by just 1 share in adults 18-49 over NBC, as “Millionaire” (5.2/16 in A18-49) posted its lowest 18-49 share ever for a firstrun Tuesday seg. More than 63% of the quizzer’s audience was 50 or older.

CBS’ “Big Brother” delivered its largest Tuesday aud (8.65 million) and matched its best 18-49 rating (3.8/12). It came within four-tenths of a ratings point of “Millionaire” at 8 p.m. (3.8 vs. 4.2) — easily the closest any show has been to “Millionaire” in that Tuesday half-hour.

Repeat of “Frasier’s” one-hour season finale (5.4/15) delivered its best 18-49 number since that finale, winning its 9:30 half-hour by a whopping 7 shares over ABC’s “Norm.” Only consolation for “Norm” was that its 3.6/10 was its best demo score of the summer.

Monday

“The Hughleys” and “Girlfriends” joined the UPN lineup Sept. 11 and helped the net score its largest Monday aud (5.27 million) since April 13, 1998, and best women 18-49 score (2.9/8) since Aug. 26, 1996.

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