Ratings for Olympic Trials Trail ABC Repeats

Rash Report: As NBCU Tries to Drum Up Interest in Beijing Games

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The five-ring sports circus that is the Olympic Games used to just play under the big top of network TV, with the late (and not just great, but superb) Jim McKay as ringmaster. Now the tents have popped up everywhere: Viewers will be able to watch NBC Universal's on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Bravo, Oxygen, Telemundo, NBC.com, VOD and mobile.
NBC's coverage of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials was competitive with -- but did not beat -- ABC from 7-9 p.m. EST, according to the Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings.
NBC's coverage of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials was competitive with -- but did not beat -- ABC from 7-9 p.m. EST, according to the Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings. Credit: AP

How to measure this new media environment? NBCU announced its plan today: Total Audience Measurement Index, or TAMI. Of course, the key is still generating interest, as TAMI needs as many Tammies, Tommies and Timmies to be engaged enough to go to the trouble of multimedia measurement. In general, the network is off to a good strategic start, trying to build storylines and interest with extensive primetime coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials. The excellent coverage has brought excitement to a summer schedule of reruns and reality TV, but bringing in viewers remains a challenge.

Sunday night, for instance, the 1.7/6 rating and share from 7-9 p.m. EST for the track and field competition was competitive with -- but did not beat -- ABC in either hour, according to the Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings (final live and same-day results will be issued Tuesday). Instead, the 7-8 p.m. hour had a rerun of ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.6/5) beating the live coverage of America's best athletes, which delivered a 1.5/6 for the hour. (Both, however, paced ahead of CBS's "60 Minutes" (1.1/4), Fox's "'Til Death" -- 1.0/4 and 1.0/3 for two reruns -- and the .5/2 for a repeat of the CW's "One Tree Hill.")

Cooler with pool
The 8 p.m. hour of NBC's coverage was better rated at 1.9/6, as summer viewers seem cooler with the pool than the action on the track. But that was only good enough to tie the first hour of a repeat of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which delivered an overall 2.2/7 for a two-hour version, to be the night's highest-rated show. (ABC squandered that lead-in with a rerun of "Desperate Housewives," which tumbled to a 1.2/3 as the network finished the night in second place with an overall 1.8/6.)

Once again, the hour belonged to NBC and ABC, as both out-rated CBS's "Million Dollar Password" (1.3/4) and reruns on Fox ("The Simpsons," 1.9/6 and "King of the Hill," 1.7/5) and on the CW ("Everybody Hates Chris," .6/2 and "Aliens in America,".5/2).

The 9 p.m. heat had Fox running stronger, as repeats of "Family Guy" (2.1/6) and "American Dad" (1.7/5) resulted in the network finishing in an overall third place with a 1.6/5. The same hour saw ratings of .5/1 for "The Game" and .3/1" for "Girlfriends" as the CW finished fifth with an overall .5/2. CBS ran a repeat relay-race of police procedurals, with "Cold Case" (1.4/4) and "Numb3rs" (1.3/4) contributing to the network's overall fourth-place finish of 1.3/4.

Wait 'til August
As for the U.S. Olympic Trials, quadrennial comparisons are difficult -- if not unfair -- as nearly every broadcast has fallen from four years ago. And so it's probably a feat of, well, Olympic proportions that so far the 2008 Olympic Trials are only pacing about 18% below the 2004 Trials (once Friday's, Saturday's and Sunday's final numbers are posted this may slightly shift). This is despite NBC's compelling coverage of the passionate athletes, which has been some of the best reality TV all year (just wait 'til August!).

Indeed, indicative of the time trials ratings race, NBC was actually able to engage 29% more viewers in "Dateline" than the finish lines, as the 2.2/6 for the newsmagazine helped the network win the night with a 2.0/6.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Independence Day weekend just recognized America's unique civic culture. So Monday's a perfect time to analyze the country's pop culture. In the summer this means reality TV, such as "The Bachelorette" finale on ABC.
Tuesday: Two views of Japan say a lot about America, as ABC's "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" runs at the same time as PBS's "Wide Angle" look at the evolving role of the Japanese military on "Japan's About Face."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ratings for "The Bachelorette" finale, which should engage enough viewers to have ABC schedule the next "Bachelor."

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households 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.
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