SBD/February 14, 2014/Olympics

NBC's Wednesday Night Rating Lower Compared To Star-Driven Telecast In '10

NBC finished with a 12.1 fast-national rating and 20.8 million viewers for Wednesday night's Olympic coverage, which featured U.S. speedskater Shani Davis' attempt at a third-straight Gold Medal in the 1000-meter event. Also featured in the telecast were Gold Medal finals for men's nordic combined (individual K-95), women's alpine skiing (downhill), pairs' figure skating and women's snowboarding (halfpipe). The audience on Wednesday night was NBC's lowest for the Sochi Games in primetime to date. The corresponding night in Vancouver earned a 16.7 rating and an 11.3 in Turin. Through six nights, NBC's 14.0 average rating is down 6% compared to '10, but up 12% compared to '06 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). The AP’s David Bauder wrote the “same night in Vancouver was a blockbuster," with Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Davis "all winning gold medals." White and Davis' competitions in '10 were "televised live" in the eastern U.S. Only Davis competed on Wednesday, and he "finished off the podium in a race shown on tape delay" (AP, 2/13).

WINTER OLYMPICS PRIMETIME RATINGS TREND (EXCLUDES OPENING THURSDAY)
 
'14 (Sochi)
'10 (Vancouver)
'06 (Turin)
'02 (Salt Lake)
6th Day (Wednesday)
12.1
16.7
11.3
17.5
5th Day (Tuesday)
13.7
12.2
11.3
18.5
4th Day (Monday)
12.8
14.2
12.8
19.6
3rd Day (Sunday)
14.4
14.3
13.3
17.6
2nd Day (Saturday)
13.9
14.0
13.5
17.1
Opening Ceremony
17.0
17.3
12.8
25.5
SIX-DAY AVG.
14.0
14.9
12.5
19.5
 

HURRY UP & WAIT: The AP’s Bauder wrote NBC’s "plausibly live" format “felt wrong” when it came to Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko on Thursday night. Plushenko came out with a “sudden retirement because of injury before performing Thursday,” but NBC’s primetime broadcast “presented a pre-taped intro about Plushenko as if he were about to start skating.” Plushenko’s retirement occurred 10 hours before NBC ran the feature and had become the “story of the day.” Bauder: “It should have been covered in a more straightforward manner.” Meanwhile, NBC figure skating analysts Sandra Bezic and Scott Hamilton were at their “finest with the performance of American figure skater Jeremy Abbott.” Abbott “took a hard fall on his hip” before he “almost miraculously … got up and finished his routine.” Both Bezic and Hamilton “properly and enthusiastically hailed Abbott's guts” (AP, 2/13).  In L.A., Steven Zeitchik writes for that "fraught sports moment just between subjective act and conclusive judgment, there’s nothing quite like Winter Olympics figure skating and the period just before scores are announced." These waits are "increasingly uncomfortable." NBC would call "what it does now drama," but the rest of us "just call it awkward" (LATIMES.com, 2/13).

TO TELL, OR NOT TO TELL: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley notes local affiliate WTMJ-NBC has decided its newscasts at 5:00pm and 6:00pm "should be news-free zones in terms of some results" from the Sochi Games. However, WISN-ABC News Dir Chris Gegg said that his Milwaukee-based station "is not using spoiler alerts for this Olympics." Gregg: "We believe that social media and technology are certainly changing the way people experience the Games. Even though NBC won’t show the key events until primetime, the results are out there on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and news sites." Journal Broadcast Group VP/Local Programming & Marketing Jim Thomas, whose company owns WTMJ, said, "As users get more sophisticated with their consumption of various media platforms, they know they can get the results. If they want them, they can go find them. So the feedback we have been getting is when I choose to get the results, I’ll go get them. On the other hand, rather than you giving us the results, I’d rather you just be silent on it and let me watch it in primetime because I have made an effort to avoid them." WITI-Fox Sports Dir Tom Pipines said that his station "is not regularly reporting event results at all from this Olympics." He said, "We don’t have the Dan Jansen, Bonnie Blair type of compelling figures ... That, in conjunction with the fact that things haven’t gone very well (for the U.S.). ... There is nothing really compelling" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/14).

MEASURING STICK: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sharma & Stewart note NBC is using comScore, not Nielsen, as it measures how people are following its coverage "not just on TVs, but also tablets, smartphones and computers." The move to comScore is "one sign of the intensifying competition facing Nielsen." TV execs said that their "internal estimates suggest Nielsen's ratings, which in the past year or two have shown sharp declines for many big networks, aren't capturing the true size of their audiences." NBCUniversal President of Research & Media Development Alan Wurtzel said Nielsen "needs to step up its game." comScore said that it can offer "a single metric that tells how many people watched a TV show across all platforms, including live and time-shifted TV, video-on-demand, and online streaming." NBC is one of "several media companies and advertisers" testing the service. Beyond the test with NBC, comScore has "recruited a sample of 300 tech-savvy consumers" to study how people "shift between platforms during their viewing of the games." The first three days of the comScore experiment "showed that 61% of the 300 recruits watched the events on multiple devices." Also, seven out 10 of the recruits "used their smartphones to follow the games." Nielsen said that it is "doing its own digital measurement trial with NBC for the Olympics, which will measure the reach of online ads on NBC's Olympics mobile app" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/14).

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