SBD/August 6, 2012/Olympics

NBC Saturday Night Sees First Olympic Ratings Dip, But Average Remains Up

NBC Saturday night -- for the first time during the London Games -- drew a smaller primetime audience than it did for the same night during the '08 Beijing Games. The net finished with a 15.9 final rating and 28.0 million viewers for coverage featuring U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps’ final Olympic swim. Those figures are both down 11% from a 17.8 rating and 31.6 million viewers on the comparable night in ’08, which had live coverage of Phelps winning his record-setting eighth Gold Medal in Beijing, as well as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt winning a Gold Medal in the 100 meters. Saturday night’s coverage also was the smallest audience of the London Games to date. NBC remains on track to deliver the highest rated, non-U.S. Olympics since the ‘76 Montreal Games. Through nine nights, the net is averaging an 18.9 rating and 33.9 million viewers, up 9% and 12%, respectively, from the same period in Beijing (NBC). In N.Y., Bill Carter writes for six of the first seven nights in London, NBC's telecasts have “averaged more than 30 million viewers; the Beijing Games had only five nights of 30 million or more.” Last Thursday’s total of 36.8 million viewers made the broadcast “the most-watched television show on a Thursday night since the finale of ‘Friends’ in 2004 (52.5 million)” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6). CABLEFAX DAILY reports subscribers have verified 6.2 million devices “either on NBCOlympics.com or on the NBC Olympics Live Extra App.” This is believed to be “the most device verifications ever for a single event in TV Everywhere history” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/6).

PRIMETIME OLYMPIC RATINGS
 
Day
London
Beijing
Athens
Sydney
Atlanta
Opening Ceremony
Fri.
21.0
18.8
14.6
16.2
23.6
Night 2
Sat.
15.8
13.9
11.8
13.1
17.2
Night 3
Sun.
19.8
18.1
15.4
14.6
22.9
Night 4
Mon.
18.0
17.6
16.6
13.8
22.9
Night 5
Tues.
21.8
20.0
18.3
15.5
27.2
Night 6
Wed.
17.9
16.7
17.3
14.6
22.4
Night 7
Thurs.
21.1
17.9
19.3
14.9
26.8
Night 8
Fri.
16.2
15.2
14.4
14.9
17.9
Night 9
Sat.
15.9
17.6
13.6
13.3
19.4
9-Night Avg.
18.9
17.4
15.8
14.6
22.3
             

THUNDER BOLT: NBC earned a 19.5 overnight Nielsen rating for primetime Olympics coverage last night, which included taped coverage of Bolt successfully defending his Gold Medal in the 100 meters. While overnights can change when national numbers are released, that figure is up 2% from a 19.1 overnight on the same night four years ago in Beijing (THE DAILY).

BAD TIMING AWARD: NBC indicated that “no offense was intended by a poorly timed promotional ad featuring a monkey on gymnastics rings that aired on the network directly following a commentary by Bob Costas on Gabby Douglas' gold medal inspiring other African-American girls to take up the sport.” The AP’s David Bauder reported the gymnastics-themed ad for NBC's upcoming comedy "Animal Practice" was “specifically timed to run late Thursday night following the women's gold medal competition.” NBC said that it was “scheduled to run before the network knew about Costas' commentary” (AP, 8/4).

THROWING POWER PUNCHES: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote NBC boxing announcers Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas “deserve a gold medal -- or a raise.” They have “turned in the best performance among the roster of mouths NBC has assembled to work week one of the Olympics.” Papa and Atlas through Thursday had called 108 fights, but none was “as wild and appalling as the bantamweight bout between Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu and Azerbaijain’s Magomed Abdulhamidov, who piled up a big lead going into the third and final round.” Shimizu came out “firing in the third, knocking down Abdulhamidov six times.” The ref -- Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan -- “never once issued a standing eight count.” Raissman: “From the first knockdown on, Papa, loudly, wigged over the ref’s inaction. Then Atlas exploded.” Atlas said, “There’s no doubt the referee is favoring the fighter from Azerbaijain.” Raissman noted anyone doubting Atlas “had to explain why, after one particular knockdown, the referee was urging Abdulhamidov to get up.” Raissman: “Falling right in line with this fix, er, fight, the judges declared Abdulhamidov the winner, which led Papa to deliver a line that will resonate throughout the rest of the boxing competition.” Papa: “Everybody here should look at themselves and realize why this sport is considered a joke” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/5).

ON-AIR REVIEWS
: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote Costas sounds “committed to returning from London with his credibility.” The primetime host has been “carefully able to speak the future in the past tense, which comes in handy when you’re promoting the primetime appearance of events long ago ended.” Costas referred to Phelps by saying, “He swam,” followed by “and we’ll show you that later on.” On the “other side of the Olympic coin is NBC’s ‘Today Show,’ which every morning has banged the drums obnoxiously for primetime coverage of events -- being held as ‘Today’ is airing!” (N.Y. POST, 8/5). Mushnick today writes it is "noteworthy how so few complaints -- and many compliments -- arrive about Ted Robinson, who yesterday called the Roger Federer-Andy Murray gold-medal match for NBC.” Robinson "keeps it smooth, unobtrusive and non-intrusive” (N.Y. POST, 8/6). NBC’s Mike Emrick is calling the water polo coverage, and he said of the assignment, “This is my second run at it. I learn something every day about the sport.” Emrick is known for his hockey coverage, and YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski asked, “How many of the classic Doc Emrick hockey calls find their way into your water polo coverage?” Emrick: “There is some crossover, like hitting the post and the crossbar. ... Once in a while, I'll catch myself calling it a breakaway. It's called a ‘counterattack’” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/4).

BROADCASTERS & FANS
: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Forelle & Enrich in a front-page piece write under the header, “The Loudest Olympic Fans? The Hardbitten Folks In The Press Box.” Many of the 21,000 members of the Olympic media “could be part of a traveling fan brigade, living the thrills and disappointments of their national squads.” American networks, which “rarely engage in open rooting, are leaving little doubt about their allegiances during these Olympic Games.” Forelle & Enrich note when the gun “goes off, its commentators are more or less calling the race.” But “not so for Emanuele Dotto, who called the men’s singles kayaking final for Italian radio.” Italian paddler Daniele Molmenti, whom he referred to as “our boy,” was a medal contender. Dotto said, “We can’t root against, we can only root for” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/6).

THIS IS "TODAY": NBC’s “Today” this morning broke from its usual format when broadcasting live from the Olympics, as it led the program with a report on the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The first mention of the Olympics, a segment on Bolt winning the men’s 100-meter race and highlights from other weekend action, came approximately 12 minutes into the show. A large amount of the Olympic content on the show dealt with the performance of the U.S. swim team. Live interviews were conducted with Gold Medal-winning swimmers MISSY FRANKLIN and KATIE LEDECKY, as well as an interview with six other members of the team. A taped segment aired in the first hour on Phelps being the “greatest Olympian of our time.” The completed tennis tournament also garnered significant time, as Gold Medalists VENUS WILLIAMS and BOB and MIKE BRYAN were interviewed live, while a taped segment about Britain's ANDY MURRAY winning a Gold Medal also aired. Other Olympic segments included a tour of the Int’l Broadcast Centre with NBC’s RYAN SEACREST and live interviews with South African sprinter OSCAR PISTORIUS and Gold Medal-winning rifle shooter JAMIE GRAY (THE DAILY).

CANADIAN PRIDE: Canadian audiences for the London Games continue to grow, with viewership up 89% over the '08 Games during days 4-6 compared to a 74% lead for days 1-3. An average audience 1.9 million viewers tuned in throughout Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium’s 22 hours of daily coverage from July 31-Aug. 2, with an average audience of 3 million viewers in primetime alone. Daytime has received 2 million viewers tuning in on average between 6:00am-6:00pm on Consortium channels (Bell Media). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes the Consortium's coverage has been "mixed" so far. The decision “to go live has been a boon, but it has a downside,” as there is “nothing more difficult in television than riding the tiger of live TV.” Many of the consortium’s on-air talents -- particularly the analysts -- “are attractive former Canadian athletic heroes parachuted into their chairs instead of the veteran voices that typified CBC coverage.” Dowbiggin: “Growing your own timber is fine, but don’t ask your pitchers to start their careers in the World Series.” The inexperienced analysts “have filled the air with overheated prose.” But all things considered, the consortium “gets a 6.5 out of 10 for its start” (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/6).

BETTER NUMBERS ON BBC
: The GUARDIAN’s John Plunkett writes Bolt's win in the men's 100 meters “was watched by just over 20 million BBC viewers on Sunday night -- the London 2012 Olympics' biggest UK audience to date outside of the opening ceremony.” A total of 19.4 million viewers watched on BBC 1, while 628,000 watched on BBC Olympics 3 and 66,000 watched in 3D on the BBC HD channel. This “topped the games' previous highest peak audience for live sporting action, the 17.1 million who watched Mo Farah win the 10,000m on Saturday, and the 16.3 million who saw Jessica Ennis secure heptathlon gold with her victory in the 800m earlier that night” (GUARDIAN, 8/6). The AP’s David Stringer noted the Opening Ceremony “hit a peak of 26.9 million viewers -- Britain’s largest TV audience since 1998.” The BBC’s "ambitious -- and technically tricky -- Olympic plan has worked almost without a flaw.” The broadcaster is “screening 24 extra channels and 24 often simultaneous online streams, with the goal of offering the most comprehensive coverage ever of events at a Summer Games” (AP, 8/4).
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