TV ratings drop 37 percent from Salt Lake City Games '02 Games

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

NEW YORK -- NBC's prime-time Olympics coverage from Turin ended up averaging 20.2 million viewers per night, a 37 percent decline from the Salt Lake City games four years ago, with an even steeper decline among young viewers.

The closing ceremonies on Sunday had only 14.8 million viewers, and was clobbered by ABC's finale of "Dancing With the Stars."

It was a disheartening showing for NBC in prime time. The network had promised its advertisers an average of between 12 and 14 ratings points for the games and barely made it: the average rating was 12.2, according to Nielsen Media Research.

NBC had expected ratings to go down from Salt Lake City due to the time difference and rise in patriotism following the 2001 terrorist attacks, but plainly hoped the drop wouldn't be as steep. Salt Lake City averaged 31.9 million viewers a night, while the 1998 Nagano games averaged 25.1 million.

The network said its cable and Internet coverage showed growth, slightly mitigating the prime-time problems.

Among viewers aged 18-to-49-years old, ratings for the Turin games were down 45 percent. Advertisers are most interested in these young viewers, who abandoned the Olympics in large numbers for Fox's "American Idol."

In fact, among this youthful demographic, NBC didn't even win in prime time last week -- Fox did. That's an unheard of slump for a television event as popular as the Olympics.

Still, the Olympic ratings were more than double NBC's prime-time average for regular programming, and the network hopes it was able to reach enough people with ads for new programs like "Conviction" to give them strong starts.

For the week, NBC averaged 19.5 million viewers (11.8 rating, 18 share), Fox had 15.6 million (9.1, 14), ABC had 11.3 million (7.1, 11), CBS had 10 million (6.6, 10), Univision had 4.4 million (2.2, 3), the WB had 2.8 million (1.9, 3), UPN had 2.6 million (1.8, 3) and Telemundo had 1.1 million (0.6, 1).

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