July 27, 2012

The Sked: Summer Olympics Ratings Forecast

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Tonight the Summer Olympics from London kicks off with the Opening Ceremony on NBC at 7:30 pm ET and PT.  The first night is generally one of the higher-rated nights of the entire Olympics and sets the tone for the 17-night sports mini-series.  (Individual night ratings for the past few Olympics can be found on the left part of the table below.)  In the last summer games in Beijing 2008, the Opening Ceremony scored a 10.3 rating with Adults 18-49, while the first night in Sydney 2000 averaged a 9.5.  A bit of an aberration, Athens 2004 scored a 7.8 rating the first night.  Excitement and anticipation seems high for London.  While the media landscape is ever more fragmented (which usually means lower ratings over time), NBC is using social media and its own websites to full effect — we’ll give tonight’s Opening Ceremony a 10.5 rating in prime time.

The right side of the table displays the cumulative average to date for each Olympics.  Normally, the 17-night average ends up a little more than a rating point lower than the first night’s rating.  The average usually builds through the first week, which features the marquee sports swimming and gymnastics (with the first Tuesday and Thursday — nights 5 and 7 — usually the highest-rated of all because they feature men’s and women’s gymnastics finals).  Then over the course of the final 10 days, the Olympics average starts to drift down as viewer fatigue sets in and the Games wheeze to an end with a usually uninspired — and relatively low-rated — Closing Ceremony.  Although we expect London to start slightly higher than Beijing, viewer exhaustion could be even more severe in the second half and it will be tough for Team USA to match the medal glory of 2008 — we’ll give the entire London games an 9.0 rating (still very good for a non-domestic Olympics).



Starting Saturday morning, we will update this chart with each night’s ratings.  Also look for posts on the sports that drove that night’s ratings, a review of the coverage, and our take on the commercials and promos during this big event.

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.