August 1, 2012

The Sked: Olympics Ratings Day 5 — NBC Hoping Closing Ceremony Never Happens

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Last night’s coverage of the fifth night of the London Summer Olympics averaged a 12.2 rating with Adults 18-49 on NBC in prime time.  The highlights of the night were the team competition for women’s gymnastics and Michael Phelps winning another gold (and breaking the all-time record for most Olympic medals).  Almost all of the audience certainly already knew the U.S. women won the gold and Phelps is now truly the Greatest Olympian Ever, but that didn’t matter — they wanted to see it with all the well-produced story-telling context:  the 10:30 half hour (when the taped gymnastics coverage was in full swing) peaked at a 14.7 rating, for example.  The 12.2 for the night is a couple notches below the same night in Beijing (which had the benefit of some live swimming coverage earlier in the evening).  The audience will have another chance to see the female gymnasts in the individual competition Thursday, which will be another enormous night for NBC.

The five-day average for London now stands at an impressive 11.2 rating, six tenths ahead of the comparable Beijing pace.  The prior nights’ ratings have been adjusted a tenth of a rating point or two: Friday-Monday night ratings are now official.  In the next few days, NBC should start releasing the biggest numbers of all: the number of people who have watched at least some Olympic coverage (either on NBC or an NBC Universal cable channel, at any time of the day).  The number grows each day and should be well over 200 million Americans soon.

In other Olympics news, Comcast CEO Steve Burke told Wall Street analysts that the London Games are performing better than expected financially: a large forecast loss now looks like a break-even proposition.  Remember, the terrific ratings so far will encourage some last minute sales of commercial time in the last week of the Olympics, but the big swing financially is that all the spots in the fall TV season that were set aside as “make goods” (in the event of low Olympic ratings) can now be sold.  Also, a big winner is the NBC Marketing department — they will get much more promo time in the second week of the Games to push the new NBC series, although the spots to date (especially for the comedies) have been less than compelling.

Finally, Twitter and NBC (partners during the Games) have come to their senses and restored the Twitter account of an L.A.-based British journalist who was very critical of NBC’s tape-delayed Olympic coverage and tweeted the business email address of an NBC Olympics executive.  NBC has absolutely no reason to be thin-skinned about complaints about their story-telling techniques: they are in  the business of maximizing ratings.  At least for the Sports division, the ratings speak for themselves.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.