Games dominate for NBC

Olympics coverage averaged 27.7 million

No Phelps, no problem for NBC last week, which once again dominated the primetime ratings race with the Summer Olympics.

Ratings for the Beijing Games may have dropped off toward the end — after U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps ended his record-setting run and action shifted from the pool to the track — but the Peacock again ruled the roost, and these Olympics finished ahead of other recent Summer Games.

For its 17 nights, NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage averaged 27.7 million viewers — 13% higher than Athens in 2004 (24.6 million) and 19% ahead of Sydney in 2000 (23.2 million). It was also up in demos vs. Athens while flat vs. Sydney — a very impressive performance given the changes in the television landscape over the past eight years.

NBC is also touting the Beijing Games as the most-watched event in history, with an estimated 214 million people in the U.S. having tuned in to at least some of the coverage on the broadcast network or various NBC U cablers. The previous record was 209 million for the Atlanta Summer Games on NBC.

For the week of Aug. 18-24, NBC’s 7.4 rating/21 share in adults 18-49 — though off from the mammoth 9.6/27 of the previous frame — was more than four times the score for runner-up CBS (1.6/5) and beat the combined deliveries of the other broadcast nets (CBS, Univision, Fox, ABC, MyNet and CW) by 16%.

Net similarly rolled in total viewers (23.3 million), delivering more than four times the aud of the closest broadcaster (CBS, 5.6 million) and more than eight times that of the closest cable net (USA, 2.85 million).

NBC set records in Nielsen People Meter history (dating back to 1987) for biggest margins of victory over the combined Big Three competition for three consecutive weeks, with wins of 24% or more in adults 18-49 and 23% or more in total viewers.

The net also won all 100 of its primetime half-hours over the 17 nights. (It aired only 19.5 hours in primetime last week, pumping up its numbers a bit by excluding some early-evening hours over the weekend that didn’t include national advertising.)

NBC’s eight primetime telecasts last week (seven nights of coverage plus Sunday’s “Beijing Closing Party”) easily claimed the top eight spots in the weekly program rankings in every key ratings category.

The highest-rated nights in demos were Tuesday (9.1/26 in 18-49, 26.63 million viewers overall) and Monday (8.9/24, 26.37m), while Sunday’s Closing Ceremony (8.2/21, 27.83m) finished on top in total viewers.

CBS placed second in 18-49, comfortably ahead of ABC and Fox, thanks to “Big Brother,” its repeat comedies and a pair of NFL preseason contests. The consistent “Brother” was up week to week on Sunday (2.2/6, 6.04m)

CBS also got a lift on Thursday from the finale of “Flashpoint” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 7.21m), which matched its season-best score in the demo.

The Eye was so dominant over ABC and Fox in total viewers that it claimed the top 14 most-watched non-Olympics programs, led by “Two and a Half Men” (8.16 million) and “NCIS” (7.61m).

Fox’s lone representative among the top 20 in 18-49 was a Sunday repeat of “Family Guy” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.17m), while ABC had only “Wipeout” (2.0/6, 5.21m) and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (1.9/5, 5.45m).

MyNetwork scored a first last week, topping the weekly average of CW in total viewers (1.50 million to 1.41 million). Net aired “Jaws” on Tuesday (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.94m) and also scored with the classic pic’s three sequels Wednesday through Friday.

In cable, USA remained on top in most key categories, with TBS, ESPN and TNT tied for second in 18-49.

Week’s top cable show in 18-49 was Monday’s season preem of “The Hills” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 3.48m), while TNT’s “The Closer” (1.4/4, 6.45m) finished on top in total viewers.

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