SBD/August 10, 2012/Olympics

NBC Heads Into Final Weekend Of London Games Well Ahead Of Pace Set In Beijing

NBC is averaging an 18.3 final rating and 32.6 million viewers through 13 nights of taped primetime London Olympics coverage, up 8% and 12%, respectively, from a 16.9 rating and 32.6 million viewers during the same period for the '08 Beijing Games. Wednesday night’s coverage finished with a 16.8 rating and 29.1 million viewers, marking the most-viewed second Wednesday for any Summer Games since the '76 Montreal Games. The telecast, which featured Gold Medal victories for U.S. beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix in the 200 meters and U.S. hurdler Aries Merritt in the 110 meters, is also up 11% and 17%, respectively, from the same night in Beijing (NBC).

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
Night 10
Sun.
17.5
16.0
15.8
16.0
23.4
Night 11
Mon.
15.8
15.8
16.4
15.8
26.4
Night 12
Tues.
17.6
16.3
15.7
12.4
21.3
Night 13
Wed.
16.8
15.2
15.3
13.9
19.8
13-Night Avg.
18.3
16.9
15.8
14.5
22.5
 

THURSDAY NIGHT: NBC earned a 15.3 overnight rating for primetime London Olympic coverage Thursday night, which featured Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt becoming the first Olympian ever to win two consecutive Gold Medals in the men’s 200 meters. While overnight figures are subject to change when final numbers are released later Friday, that figure is down 7% from a 16.4 overnight for the same night in Beijing. Thursday night’s telecast also faced competition from five NFL preseason games. Denver, which has ranked fourth among all U.S. markets for Olympics coverage, ranked near the bottom of markets for Thursday night’s NBC Olympic primetime telecast, as many viewers tuned in for QB Peyton Manning’s debut for the Broncos in a game against the Bears (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

KICKSTART MY HEART: The rating for NBC Sports Net's broadcast of the U.S.-Japan Gold Medal women's soccer match will not be available until Friday afternoon, and USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes whatever the rating is, NBC's "scheduling probably didn't help." NBCSN is in about 80 million HHs, compared to about 114 million HHs for NBC, and the broadcast network in the same time slot as the soccer game "aired women's water polo and men's beach volleyball." It was "part of NBC's strategy to use NBCSN ... to carry Olympic coverage of traditional team sports such as soccer and basketball." But NBC "should have played it up more." The net "sometimes sticks to its Olympic scripts too much," but it "could have dropped in more women's soccer highlights and features during prime time to set up Thursday's flag-waving finish" (USA TODAY, 8/10). In N.Y., George Vecsey writes the game "got first-class treatment this time, with NBC showing every shot, every save, every discreet shove, on NBCSN." Announcers Arlo White and Brandi Chastain were "up to providing knowing commentary, with frequent references to Japan’s gallant victory" over the U.S. in the final game of the '11 FIFA Women's World Cup. U.S. Olympic coverage is "often accused of jingoism during the Games," but the soccer coverage in particular treated Japan and Canada during the semifinal match Monday "with the respect they deserved" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10).

OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
: Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald is calling the Olympic basketball tournament on NBCSN, and he said, “I have been in the NBA for almost 20 years. But to get this opportunity? Other than doing the NBA Finals, I don’t think there is a higher or better situation if you’re a basketball play-by-play guy. It’s really, really been a dream come true.” SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney wrote as part of NBC’s “push to provide coverage of all Olympic events, Fitzgerald has called men’s and women’s games for Team USA and has called one additional game each day.” Fitzgerald said, “From a basketball standpoint, to do a United States game and then do another tournament game and see all these other countries ... it’s been incredible.” He added, “Twenty games in 10 days? Yeah, that’s a lot. But it is the Olympics” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/9).

TRYING SOMETHING NEW
: In Boston, Chad Finn writes Celtics announcer Mike Gorman is calling NBC's handball coverage from N.Y., and the game has “similar to basketball, but it isn’t basketball, and that’s in part why calling it was intriguing to Gorman.” He said, “NBC originally approached me and asked if I was interested in doing basketball from New York. At this stage of my career, I’m more a Celtic guy than a basketball guy. I just love doing the Boston Celtics. More basketball games of teams I don’t know is not exactly what I’m looking for in the summertime. When they called me and asked if I’d be interested in doing basketball, I said, ‘Do you have anything else?’” He added of handball, “I looked at that and said, ‘This is a crazy sport. I’d love to do this.’ So the first team handball game I ever saw that was unfinished was the first one I broadcast” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/10).

BEACH BLANKET BINGO: Paul Sunderland, who is calling NBC's coverage of the men’s and women’s indoor volleyball tournament, said that he “understands from a programming standpoint" why beach volleyball has "taken more of the sport’s spotlight, not just on NBC but in TV coverage worldwide.” Sunderland said, “It's really a matter of how much volleyball can you put on during an Olympics, and the beach game does drop-dead great ratings. ... If I'm making a decision on what to put more energy into from a TV standpoint, the beach is better, simple as that.” He added, "The beach game fits nicely into a 30-to-40 minute window, it has real sex appeal, and you get caught up with it in prime time" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/10).

SURPRISINGLY GOOD: The N.Y. TIMES' Vecsey writes the London Games are the first Summer Olympics he has watched on television instead of covering on site, and “somewhat to my surprise, I have found the televised Olympics, for all their flaws, to be fine summer entertainment, particularly if one reclines on the sofa and lets NBC do what it does best.” The criticism of NBC “used to boggle me because I knew Dick Ebersol, the longtime chief of sports at NBC, to be one of the most knowledgeable executives in sports.” These are the “first Games since Ebersol resigned, but I can’t tell if the network has lost its sense of mission.” Vecsey: “I have no interest in watching NBC prime-time celebrities frolicking in London, but I have been reassured by the reliable presence of icons like Bob Costas, Al Michaels, the mellowing John McEnroe and the mellifluous Mary Carillo, who did a James Bond feature, out of nowhere, just fun on a summer evening.” Vecsey: "Blessedly, print journalism still complements the events racing across the screen” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10).

SURVEY SAYS: A study from Pew Research Center for People & the Press found that 73% of Americans "said they had watched at least some of the Olympics on television.” Pew also found that 17% of respondents "had watched some of the coverage online, and 12 percent were following the results through social networks like Facebook and Twitter." Three-quarters of those polled by Pew “rated NBC's coverage as good or excellent.” Pew researchers “interviewed 1,005 adults randomly selected by phone Aug. 2-5” (AP, 8/9).

ROOT, ROOT, ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM
: In London, Ben Webster noted BBC General Dir Mark Thompson has ordered channel controllers "to remember that other countries are competing in the Olympics as well as Team GB, and not to focus too heavily on British successes.” Thompson delivered the instruction Thursday “in his daily morning conference call with senior staff.” It “angered some BBC staff, who interpreted it as criticising coverage of the Olympics for being too patriotic." However, Thompson "swiftly reassured them that this had not been his intention” (LONDON TIMES, 8/10). Also in London, Hannah Furness notes the instructions come “after overseas publications have raised questions over the BBC’s impartiality.” Thompson “moved to reassure” his staff that he had “not intended to criticise their coverage, with a BBC spokesman confirming it did not herald a change in policy.” Thompson in a statement said, “The BBC has been right to focus on sporting achievements which the whole country has been celebrating and we will continue to do so with pride. We can do that while at the same time making sure that our news programmes fully reflect some of the other great sporting achievements and human stories of the London Games” (London TELEGRAPH, 8/10).

MOST POPULAR: The GUARDIAN’s Jason Deans notes the men’s 200 meters semifinals featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt “proved the most popular Olympics event for BBC viewers on Wednesday, attracting just under 11 million viewers -- nearly half the available TV audience.” Live coverage of Wednesday night’s three men’s 200-meters semi-finals “averaged 10.6 million viewers over 25 minutes from 8:10pm on BBC1, with another 373,000 watching the simulcast on BBC Olympics 1.” The combined audience share “for the two channels was 48.4% over this period” (GUARDIAN, 8/10).

THIS IS "TODAY": Friday’s episode of NBC’s “Today” is the last one that will take place in London, and the show hosts arrived to the set in a double-decker bus with 60-plus members of Team USA. As the athletes filed out of the bus, co-host SAVANNAH GUTHRIE said, “It’s like a clown car of U.S. athletes and medal winners.” The opening hour featured a highlights package of Thursday’s Olympic action and a check of the medal count, followed by a live interviews with members of the women’s soccer team, members of the Gold Medal-winning women’s water polo team, decathletes ASHTON EATON and TREY HARDEE, triple jumpers CHRISTIAN TAYLOR and WILL CLAYE and swimmer RYAN LOCHTE. LOCOG Chair SEBASTIAN COE discussed the success of the Games in a taped piece. The second 60-minutes led with a live interview with Gold Medal-winning figure skater EVAN LYSACEK, who announced he is returning to competition, as well as a live interview with U.S. G HOPE SOLO. The co-hosts also discussed their favorite moments from the Games. The third hour included live interviews with Gold Medal-winning women’s boxer CLARESSA SHIELDS and Olympic photographer NEIL LEIFER. Swimmer NATALIE COUGHLIN closed the show participating in a live cooking demonstration (THE DAILY).
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