That's because Beijing agreed to schedule some of the most compelling competition for weekday mornings, which means live prime-time coverage in the U.S., at least in the Eastern and Central time zones.
Would we have done the same?
Like all diplomatic gestures, there was some realpolitik involved: The time-shifting helped Beijing secure the games -- as well as record revenue from Western Hemisphere broadcast rights. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine such a gesture going the other way; would the organizers of the Atlanta games been willing to move track and field to Tuesday morning?
As in most diplomacy, the long-term payoff remains to be seen, in regard to how Americans see China. But short-term, more Americans are getting a view of China through the games, which is good for NBC and the IOC, but also good for the host country, which gets a chance to showcase some of its more stunning landmarks.
NBC once again dominated in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, scoring a 10.6/29 rating and share, as viewers got to see in real time the unreal Michael Phelps capture his third gold medal of the games. This demo delivery was up 7% over Athens and 29% over Sydney for comparable Monday nights during the 2004 and 2000 games.
NBC's competition, conversely, doesn't have to contend with time zone differences, but rather indifference, as most repeats and reality shows are performing poorly. CBS, the usual Monday night winner, was a distant second with a 1.8/5 with the sitcoms "The Big Bang Theory" (1.5/5), "How I Met Your Mother" (1.7/5), "Two and a Half Men" (2.4/6) and "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (1.8/4), as well as the drama "CSI: Miami" (1.7/4).
ABC (.8/2) and Fox (.9/3) were about half of CBS. ABC ran "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" -- which has fallen more than two-thirds since its debut to a .6/2 -- as well as two reruns of "Samantha Who?" (.6/2 and .8/2) and "The Mole" (1.1/3).
Fox countered with rerun dramas "Prison Break" (.9/3) and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (.9/2).
The CW also turned dramatic, but with half the effect, delivering a .4/1 with "Gossip Girl" (.5/1) and "One Tree Hill" (.4/1).
As for tonight, Beijing's hospitality will be felt in many American homes again, as live coverage of Phelps going for gold in his fourth and fifth events should keep ratings golden, too.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: Olympics: Golden boy Michael Phelps' quest continues on NBC's prime time, which would keep him on track to try to break Mark Spitz's 1972 Munich record and would put him above Olympic greats like Carl Lewis (see above).
Non-Olympics: If synchronized diving didn't make you dizzy, watch "Vertigo" on TCM.
Wednesday: Olympics: The men's individual gymnastics championship.
Non-Olympics: Well, maybe a break from the Olympics, but not from sports: Fox runs preseason NFL with the Carolina Panthers practicing against (NFL preseason isn't really a game, is it?) the Philadelphia Eagles.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
A consistent adult 18-49 share in the high 20s, as Friday and Sunday delivered a 30 share and last night hit a 29.
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.