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Will Games boost NBC’s fall bows?

Tracking shows only slight jump in awareness

Did Phelps and Bolt benefit “Kath & Kim”?

The Beijing Olympics attracted more than 211 million viewers during its two-week run, making it the most-viewed event in TV history — and thus a great place, in theory, for NBC to promote its fall wares.

But as huge as that audience was, industry insiders who have parsed the competitive fall tracking studies making the rounds said NBC received only a slight bounce in awareness for frosh skeins like “Kath & Kim” and “My Own Worst Enemy.”

“You’re not seeing amazing pops in their shows,” said one rival network exec. “Given the size of the Olympics audience, ‘Kath & Kim’ is not where you’d like it to be. You saw some boost, but not significant.”

That’s not necessarily a surprise. Sports audiences rarely translate to primetime gold, as most major events (such as the NFL and past Olympic Games) have proved through the years.

“Historically, there hasn’t been a huge correlation between using that platform and what happens in the fall,” NBC Universal honcho Jeff Zucker told CNBC Monday. “But hopefully it’s better than not having it.”

If newcomers like “Kath & Kim” and “My Own Worst Enemy” aren’t scoring as high as expected on the awareness meter, it may be partly because the Peacock focused much more of its promo time than usual on returning fare, such as “Heroes,” “Life,” “Chuck” and “Lipstick Jungle” — shows that are still relatively new or have been on a strike-induced hiatus for much of the year.

According to NBC Agency topper Jon Miller, 65% of the Peacock’s promo time during the Olympics was used for returnees, leaving just 35% for new skeins.

“When you’re hitting nine or 10 priorities, many of them returning shows, you won’t expect to see as great of an awareness gain,” Miller said. “But we did see gains. The Olympics in the past has been seen as a launching pad to debut new shows, but that’s not how we used it. … We took the opportunity to reinvigorate a significant amount of our returning schedule.”

Four years ago, NBC bowed its fall sked immediately following the Olympic Games in Athens and indeed achieved some sampling for new shows such as “Joey” and “LAX.” Those shows quickly collapsed, but NBC was at least able to bring viewers to the screen.

This time out, the challenge for the Peacock is more difficult: With a month-and-a-half gap between the Olympics finale and the launch of NBC series such as “Kath & Kim” and “My Own Worst Enemy,” an Olympian bounce will be difficult.

Nonetheless, Miller said he’s pleased with where awareness and intent-to-view numbers stand for NBC’s new shows. According to the exec, NBC skeins received a 59% awareness boost post-Olympics — compared with a 40% boost after the Athens Games.

“You can’t beat that Olympics circulation,” a rival network exec said. “Will it have any lasting effect on people? That’s the real question.”

Indeed, the final results will come in October, when the bulk of the Peacock’s new skeins launch. Miller said he’s usually happy if, by launch, at least 40% of the viewing audience is aware of a show and 40% of that crowd intends to view said show — meaning at least 16% of the TV aud will likely tune in.

“Kath & Kim” and “My Own Worst Enemy” are each more than halfway toward that goal — exactly where he’d like them to be with six weeks left before launch, Miller said. “Knight Rider,” which has an advantage in that many remember the original 1980s series, tops NBC’s awareness charts.

“We feel we’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “And with no paid media yet — that has yet to come. Looking at what our strategy was in supporting the entire schedule, I say mission accomplished.”

The Olympics had a bigger impact, insiders said, on stopping rival networks from getting their messages out. Fox’s “Fringe,” for example, hasn’t seen its awareness level grow in recent weeks, even though the show bows on Sept. 9. Others also saw their awareness levels stall or uptick only slightly as well.

“In some ways, the Olympics hurt the other networks more than it helped NBC,” one exec said.

Among new series, the CW’s “90210” tops the charts when it comes to awareness among TV auds. Much of that can be attributed to viewers’ familiarity with the original “Beverly Hills, 90210” (perhaps coupled with ongoing news reports over which original cast member will make a visit).

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