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Peacock delivers on Olympics

Nets may have little to fear from next games

HOLLYWOOD — Clearing out the notebook, as we move from skating and sweeps to spring:

  • NBC picked up a ratings gold medal for its coverage of the Winter Olympics, but it appears the other nets may not have as much to fear in upcoming Games.

Given that NBC benefited from some Olympics controversy, experienced no weather problems and saw the Americans score a record number of medals, its ratings from Salt Lake City were not that overwhelming.

For the 17 nights, NBC averaged 31.9 million viewers and an adults 18-49 rating of 11.8, according to Nielsen. This is 25% higher than the soggy numbers for Nagano in 1998 on CBS and about 15% lower than the 1996 Summer Games from Atlanta on NBC — the last Olympiad held in the States.

But factored into these averages are both the most-watched Opening and Closing Ceremonies on record.

Primetime primer

Then there’s also NBC’s version of “primetime,” as the net requested that Nielsen excise the opening half-hour’s ratings from some non-skating nights when it didn’t air national commercial spots. This boosted the net by roughly 5% on these nights, giving it some breathing room in achieving its guaranteed ratings levels.

NBC reportedly promised advertisers a 17.2 household rating, so its final average of 19.1 easily exceeded these expectations. Net reports it made in excess of $75 million on the Games, and now begins preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympics from Athens.

  • Other than NBC, the net to emerge from the February sweep with the best ratings story is UPN.

    Thanks to the additions of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Enterprise,” as well as improved perfs by its Monday comedies and Friday movies, the netlet finished ahead of the WB in adults 18-49, 18-34 and other measures.

  • A competitive comedy battle is being fought between Fox and ABC on Wednesday — the only night where one of the major nets opposes another in a two-hour laffer block.

In the five weeks since “That ’80s Show” bowed to big numbers for Fox, the nets are tied from 8-10 on Wednesday in the demo that matters most: adults 18-49 (4.2/11).

ABC leads in total viewers (9.8 million vs. 8.5m) while Fox has the decided advantage in adults 18-34 (5.0/15 vs. 3.7/11) and teens (5.1/18 vs. 2.5/9) and a smaller edge in kids (2.4/10 vs. 1.9/8).

Battle is also noteworthy because the nets are seemingly going after the same audience — primarily blue-collar young adults and families. Wednesday’s top-rated comedy on each net (“My Wife and Kids” on ABC and “Bernie Mac” on Fox) is toplined by an African-American comedian.

Both nets will add another piece to the puzzle this month, with “The George Lopez” show temporarily subbing for “According to Jim” at 8:30 on ABC and “Greg the Bunny” taking over for “Titus” at 9:30 on Fox.

  • NBC has now locked up the season in the key demo of adults 18-49 and will also win in adults 25-54 and total viewers, but there are some close bragging-rights battles still being fought.

Through 23 weeks, CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and NBC’s “ER” were in a virtual tie as primetime’s most-watched drama (nearly 23 million viewers), while the Eye’s “The Guardian” and Peacock’s “Crossing Jordan” (both with nearly 13 million viewers) are vying to finish as the season’s most popular new program.

The closest network races find ABC and CBS looking to avoid a fourth-place finish in adults 18-49 (they’re tied in third place at 3.8/10, with CBS on the inside track), and NBC and Fox battling for the lead in adults 18-34 (the Olympics put NBC ahead 4.5/14 to 4.3/13). This one is too close to call.

Stay tuned.

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