February 24, 2014

NIELSENWAR: Olympics Post-Mortem, and Top 5 Midseason Storylines


SQUIRREL!  NBC, and its media enablers, will do their best to focus discussion of the WINTER OLYMPICS ratings on total viewers, daytime and online numbers, and–SQUIRREL!–anything other than the evident fact that the Games didn’t justify a cost that probably exceeded $1 billion, between rights ($775M alone) and production costs over the 18 days of nonstop coverage.  Primetime 18-49 ratings from Sochi were down 0.6 from the last European Olympics in 2006, and a full point lower than Vancouver in 2010–and this was with only a fraction of normal primetime competition from the other networks.  Part of the problem, of course, is due to the fact that US athletes underperformed expectations, especially in the marquee sports of Women’s Ice Skating and Men’s Hockey–a factor over which NBC has no control.  However, it also stems from the fact that virtually alone among televised sports events, the Olympics are aired on tape delay in US primetime, in an era where instant results are available to anyone with a single click, which makes the events themselves old news (and especially unappealing if the US has lost).  This will be true again in 2018, when the Games occur in South Korea–at a rights cost of $963M to NBC.

However much NBC overpaid for the Olympics, they still got some bang for their buck.  Although last week’s primetime average was down a big 1.27 from the first week of the Olympics to 4.23, that was still far above FOX at 2.69 1.75 (thanks to 3 nights of AMERICAN IDOL and the DAYTONA 500, up 1.29 0.35 from last week), let alone CBS at 1.14 (up 0.24 from last week), ABC at 1.11 (up 0.11) and CW at 0.29 (down 0.01).

Season to date, the networks currently line up as follows:

NBC:  2.73 (up 0.07 from last week and 19% from the Olympics-less last season)

FOX:  2.42 (down 0.03 from last week and up 11% from last season due to the Super Bowl)

CBS:  1.94 (down 0.04 from last week and down 26% from last season, when it had the Super Bowl)

ABC:  1.58 (down 0.02 from last week and 17% from last season)

CW:   0.53 (down 0.01 from last week and 6% from last season)

Now that the Olympics are done, it’s time for midseason TV to get seriously underway, and here are 5 of the biggest storylines to be looking at over the next few weeks:

1.  What will happen to CBS’s Monday once HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER airs its finale on March 31?

2.  Can NBC, with new programming on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, make inroads with any show other than THE BLACKLIST?

3.  Will ABC’s move of REVENGE to 10PM on Sundays salvage that show–or kill it?

4.  Can FOX recover any of the AMERICAN IDOL viewers who fled the show over the Olympics weeks, bringing the once-mighty series to its lowest ratings ever?

5.  Sundance Channel and BBCAmerica have so far garnered more critical buzz than viewers for their original programming.  Can the 2d season of ORPHAN BLACK and premiere of THE RED ROAD, respectively, put them into the big leagues?


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."