Looking ahead, it doesn’t look good
Olympics will still give NBC a sweeps victory
February 13, 2006
Many media people projected before February sweeps began that NBC would finish No. 1 based on the Olympics, and that still looks like it will happen.
But whether that sweeps win will help lift the network out of fourth place for the season among adults 18-49 is looking more and more doubtful.
Ratings for the Olympics in that demographic have been off compared to past years thus far, beginning with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday. Sunday they struggled even more, with NBC finishing behind ABC for the night, when the Games lost three significant storylines.
NBC’s prospects for recovering that lost momentum seem slight. Though figure skating will still get strong tune-in, the Games are heading into a tough 10 days against tougher competition from Fox’s American Idol, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and Lost, and CBS’s Survivor.
All these shows have a chance of finishing ahead of the Games among 18-49s, all at the expense of the Games and NBC, deflating any hopes for a huge Olympics lift.
Fourth-place NBC is struggling to catch up with third-place Fox for the season. But as the Olympics falter, Fox continues to gain.
The first three nights of the games lifted NBC to first among adults 18-49 last week, the week ended Feb. 12, with a 5.1 average, but it didn’t give the network a big boost for the season. Its season average jumped just 0.1 to a 3.2.
NBC still remains well behind third-place Fox, whose season average also jumped 0.1 to a 3.6. ABC leads with a 4.2, followed by CBS at a 3.9. All three have rosy prospects for the remainder of the season.
Fox has three weeks with three editions of Idol coming up, while ABC has the Academy Awards. And CBS held back some original episodes of hits like CSI and Without A Trace to show in March instead of facing the Olympics. That ensures the network big ratings next month, which is traditionally full of reruns.
Even if NBC were to jump into third place, it would be short-lived. When the Olympics end, NBC’s regular schedule will struggle to hold on to the gains it made in February.
Without the Olympics, NBC will be lucky to pull off a 3.3 weekly average, which will quickly cancel out two weeks of Games-enhanced 6s.
NBC has several new shows joining the schedule, and that’s getting a lot of promotion during the Olympics. But they are far from sure things. It’s moving the aging Apprentice to Monday night, where it could well wither away.
And one of its higher-rated shows, Thursday’s The Office, will air its season finale six weeks early, in March, to allow star Steve Carrell to shoot a movie. For a network struggling to find hit shows, the loss of even one will hurt.
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