Olympics sweep top slots, continue to best recent Games

NBC ran circles around the competition last week, riding the Summer Olympics to the most lopsided primetime ratings victory for any network on record.

The net’s wall-to-wall coverage from England easily claimed the week’s top seven spots in the rankings in every Nielsen category. And through 10 nights, the average primetime aud for the London Games — 33.6 million — was well above Beijing in 2008 (29.9 million) and is the most for any non-U.S.-based Summer Olympics since Montreal in 1976.

NBC’s primetime average in adults 18-49 last week of 10.2 was the net’s best for any frame since February 2002 during the Salt Lake City Olympics and is the highest for any network since Fox’s 11.5 with the Super Bowl and “American Idol” in early 2011. For a summer week, it’s the best for any net since summer 1996 when NBC aired the Atlanta Olympics.

In total viewers, NBC rolled up an average aud of 32.2 million last week — its highest since the 2002 Summer Games and the highest for any network since Fox during Super Bowl week in 2008.

And since the Olympics remain impressively strong at a time when summer numbers have never been lower for the top broadcast shows, the distance between the Peacock and everybody else was historic. In fact, NBC’s margins of victory over the No. 2 network (8.9 ratings points over Univision in adults 18-49 and 28 million viewers over runner-up CBS in overall audience) are the largest in Nielsen’s people-meter history going back 25 years.

To put the Peacock’s dominance in perspective, consider that it averaged more adults 18-49 during any minute of primetime last week (13.09 million) than the combined delivery of the next 18 networks — Univision, CBS, Fox, ABC, USA, TBS, TNT, A&E, Telemundo, Adult Swim, FX, Tru, Disney, History, ABC Family, AMC, Syfy and Food.

NBC saw its best numbers from London last week for Team USA’s monster showings on Tuesday (12.8/35 in 18-49, 38.72 million viewers overall) and Thursday (11.9/35, 36.80 million), which included gold medal-winning perfs by Michael Phelps, the women’s gymnastics team and others. But even its lowest rated night, Saturday, drew well (8.6/28, 27.96m).

Outside the Olympics, the week’s top draws among young adults were HBO’s “True Blood” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 4.50m) and the three telecasts of CBS’ “Big Brother” (top score was Sunday’s 2.1/6, 5.72m) — both of which held up well despite the tougher competish.

Some summer broadcast shows opted for repeats, including all three of Fox’s reality competition series and ABC’s Thursday drama “Rookie Blue.” Other than “Big Brother,” the top firstrun performer was ABC’s “Wipeout” on Thursday with a lowly 1.4/4 score in the demo.

Univision ranked second in adults 18-49 thanks mostly to hot 10 p.m. novela “La Que No Podia Amar” (The One Who Couldn’t Love), which was the No. 1 series in the hour Monday through Friday last week. Its top score came Wednesday (2.0/6 in 18-49, 5.13m).

The week’s highest-rated shows on basic cable aired Monday, with VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta” (1.8/5, 3.21m) and USA’s “WWE Raw” (1.5/4, 4.72m) tops among adults 18-49 and TNT’s “The Closer” (1.0/3, 5.77m) leading the way in total viewers.

Also of note, TruTV moved up to seventh place among all cable networks in adults 18-49 — rising about 10% in various categories vs. the same week a year ago despite facing the Olympics. Setting the pace were “Lizard Lick Towing” on Monday (1.1/3, 2.36m) and “Hardcore Pawn” on Tuesday (0.9/2, 2.67m).

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