Olympics vault NBC to victory

Peacock sees best numbers since 1988 Super Bowl

NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics, which has received better scores from Nielsen judges in recent days, last week pumped the Peacock to the most decisive weekly victory for any net since Super Bowl week in January.

Buoyed by a strong Sunday last week and improved numbers Monday of this week, ratings for the Sydney Games are inching back toward respectability as high-profile track and field events move to the forefront. The network, though, is still projected to finish well below recent Summer Games.

According to Nielsen, NBC won the week of Sept. 18-24 with an average primetime audience of 25.41 million viewers and a 10.0/27 in the key demo of adults 18-49 — more than double the Peacock’s season-to-date averages (11.53 million, 4.6/13) and its best numbers since the last week of January 1988, when it aired the Super Bowl.

It’s also the best numbers for any net since ABC averaged 27.66 million viewers and 11.2/28 in the demo during the Jan. 24-30 week, which included the St. Louis-Tennessee Super Bowl contest.

Through 11 of 17 nights, the Games are averaging a 14.8/26 rating in homes, 23.38 million viewers and a 9.1 in adults 18-49. Compared with Atlanta, these represent drop-offs of 35%, 34% and 37%, respectively, while vs. the 1992 Barcelona Games the losses are 18%, 15% and 26%.

The 14.7/26 homes rating is also considerably below the 16.6/27 that CBS delivered at this point during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

Besides the well-documented 15-hour time difference between Sydney, Australia, and the East Coast, another factor contributing to the overall ratings woes is the Games’ September start, which has made it more difficult for back-to-school teens and kids to watch late into the evening.

Compared with the 1996 Atlanta Games (held in July), the Sydney Games are down by 46% in share — the largest among any demo group — in both teens (21 vs. 40) and kids (18 vs. 34).

NBC is doing its part to boost the ratings a bit by rearranging its disbursement of national ads on a nightly basis. Net is dropping all national advertising from 7 to 7:30 (and some times as late as 7:45), making these lower-rated portions of each evening’s primetime telecast exempt from Nielsen’s counters.

Because Olympics ratings gradually build throughout the night, the removal of the first 30 or more minutes can boost the net’s nightly averages by a few tenths of a ratings point.

To make up for this, NBC is adding these national ad minutes to later in the broadcast, and also cutting back on promotional time and local affiliates’ news breaks.

The Olympics held down the week’s top eight spots among the most watched programs and seven of the top eight in adults 18-49.

The one adult demo that the Olympics didn’t dominate was men 18-34, for whom ABC’s “Monday Night Football” (10.6/32) and Fox’s “The Simpsons” (7.5/22) topped every night of the Games. “MNF,” featuring a strong Dallas-Washington matchup, was also tops for the week in men 18-49 (11.9/32) and men 25-54 (13.0/32).

Fox, the network least affected by the likes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Survivor,” is also faring best opposite the Olympics. Net, which counterprogrammed with five weeknight movies, delivered its largest audience (7.68 million) and best 18-49 rating (3.2/9) since May.

Compared with the first 10 nights of the 1996 Summer Olympics, Fox is up 44% among total viewers (7.5 million vs. 5.2 million) and 39% among adults 18-49 (3.2/9 vs. 2.3/7). During the same period, ABC is up 3% in 18-49 (3.2/9 vs. 3.1/9) and 15% in viewers (9.1 million vs. 7.9 million), while CBS is up 4% in the demo (2.6/7 vs. 2.5/7) but down 8% in viewers (7.6 million vs. 8.3 million).

CBS, with “Survivor” reruns fairing poorly, dropped to fourth in adults 18-49 (2.7/7) for the first time since before “Survivor’s” debut in May. It also finished fourth in total viewers (7.62 million) for the first time this season.

Broadcast nets’ adults 18-49 averages for Sept. 18-24: NBC, a 10.0 rating/27 share (up 27% in rating from a year ago, which was the 1999-2000 season premiere week); ABC, 3.4/9 (down 31%); Fox, 3.2/9 (down 14%); CBS, 2.7/7 (down 37%); UPN, 1.4/4 (down 7%); the WB, 1.2/3 (down 25%); Pax, 0.3/1 (even).

Adults 18-49 averages for the top cable services: ESPN, 1.1/3 (even); HBO, 0.9/2 (even); USA, 0.7/2 (down 22%), tied with TBS, 0.7/2 (even); Lifetime, 0.6/2 (down 14%).

Monday

ABC’s “Monday Night Football” didn’t hold up nearly as well vs. the Olympics on Sept. 25, with Jacksonville-Indianapolis paling in comparison to the marquee Dallas-Washington matchup a week earlier.

The Games (24.46 million, 9.6/26 in A18-49) topped the game (14.52 million, 6.1/16). It’s the second-weakest “MNF” demo score of the past two seasons, topping only last season’s Atlanta-San Francisco finale (5.7/16).

CBS’ “Big Brother” showed week-to-week demo gains with its final Monday telecast — up 13% in adults 18-49 (3.4/9 vs. 3.0/9) and up 17% in adults 18-34 (3.5/11 vs. 3.0/10).

UPN’s “Girlfriends” produced the net’s best adults 18-49 (2.2/5) and women 18-34 (3.1/8) ratings in the Monday 9:30 slot since November 1997.

Sunday

The Olympics enjoyed their best night since the Opening Ceremony in homes and total viewers while delivering its best numbers overall in women 18-49 (11.6/29), men 18-49 (9.4/23), adults 18-49 (10.5/26) and adults 25-54 (12.0/27). In the latter, it was up 11% vs. the first Sunday (12.0 vs. 10.8).

The first repeat of last May’s highly rated “Millionaire” episodes improved on the quizzer’s previous-week firstrun results by 13% in adults 18-49 (4.3/9 vs. 3.8/8) and by an impressive 42% among adults 18-34 (3.7/9 vs. 2.6/6).

CBS tied Fox for second on the night in adults 18-49 (3.6), boosted by a 32-minute New York Jets-Tampa Bay NFL overrun (8.6/26).

Saturday

ABC came in second to NBC in total viewers behind the Eddie Murphy theatrical “Metro,” which drew the net’s best Saturday pic numbers (8.04 million, 2.8/8 in 18-49) since May.

Friday

The WB preem of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” matched the net’s largest aud to date in the 8 p.m. timeslot (3.36 million), coming very close to a “Two Guys and a Girl” repeat on ABC (3.81 million) and topping the Alphabet laffer in adults 18-34 (1.5/6 vs. 1.3/5).

The rest of the WB’s new-look Friday didn’t fare as well. At 8:30, “Grosse Pointe” (2.66 million) held on to a so-so 79% of the “Sabrina” audience, with a second “Two Guys” (4.14 million) winning more convincingly. And at 9, second-year drama “Popular” (1.92 million) wasn’t very, losing viewers and demo points from its first to second half-hour.

Thursday

Compared with NBC’s Thursday series premieres one year ago (which included “Third Watch” in place of “ER” at 10), the Olympics finished ahead in viewers (22.97 million vs. 22.30) but down 16% in adults 18-49 (9.3/28 vs. 11.1/31).

Without “Friends” to compete against, “Big Brother” actually edged up in some key demos opposite the Olympics. Compared with the previous week, “Brother” was down 7% in viewers (7.57 million vs. 8.07) but up a tick in adults 18-49 (3.2/10 vs. 3.1/10) and up 11% in women 18-49 (4.2/13 vs. 3.8/12).

“Home Alone 2” (8.03 million, 2.8/8 in 18-49) delivered Fox’s best Thursday ratings since March.

Wednesday

The Olympics delivered NBC’s best Wednesday 18-49 rating (10.1/28) since the final Wednesday of the Atlanta Games.

Opposite the Olympics, “Big Brother” (9.66 million, 4.2/13) fell week to week by 23% in both viewers and adults 18-49, but did manage to rank as the week’s top-rated non-Olympics program in women 18-34 (5.5/18).

Tuesday

NBC attracted the highest ratings for any net on a Tuesday this season in adults 18-49 (9.7/28) and total viewers (24.06 million) — the best marks for the Peacock since the final Tuesday of the 1996 Olympics.

Fox continues to get good mileage out of theatrical “Jumanji,” whose third run delivered the net’s largest Tuesday aud of the summer (7.65 million).

Monday

The combination of the Olympics on NBC, a strong “Monday Night Football” game on ABC and wrestling on cablers USA and TNT helped push the Sept. 18 HUT (homes using television) level to 64.8, the highest on any night since the Academy Awards in March.

“Monday Night Football” (Dallas-Washington) scored the night’s best 18-49 rating (8.7/24), although the Olympics (8.2/23) topped football head to head in four half-hours.

The first full night of UPN’s new Monday comedies — including “The Hughleys” and rookie “Girlfriends” — delivered a strong 3.45 million viewers and a 1.8 rating in both adults 18-49 and 18-34. Compared with the netlet’s Monday averages of a year ago, these numbers were up 24%, 29% and 20%, respectively.

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