Olympics Take Gold Again

Rash Report: But Ratings Cool After Wednesday's High

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Is skiing catching up with skating as viewers' favorite Winter Olympic sport? It may be too early to tell, because next week will have Vancouver's marquee matchup, the women's individual figure skating competition. But this week it's been notable that Wednesday's coverage, which was highlighted by Lindsey Vonn's velocity down the scary ski hill at Whistler, was higher rated than both Tuesday and Thursday, which relied more on men's figure skating.

Thursday night relied on men's figure skating.
Thursday night relied on men's figure skating. Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Which isn't to say there still isn't a lot of interest: NBC won again, this time with a 7.1/19 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic (based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data to be released Friday afternoon). But that was only 79% of Wednesday's demo delivery. And Tuesday had only 61% of Wednesday's peak.

Of course, coverage spans sports from skiing to skating to skeleton to everything in-between. So it's hard to isolate just one factor. And some stayed for original episodes of dramas on ABC and "Survivor" on CBS, which each held relatively well compared to last week: "Survivor" retained 87% of last week's audience to deliver a 3.9/11; "Grey's Anatomy" (3.7/9) and "Private Practice" (2.8/7) kept 84% and 90% of last week's viewers, respectively. At 8 p.m., "The Deep End" (1.1/3) didn't totally fall off of it, as it kept 73%. And on Fox, an original episode of "Past Life" (1.1/3) brought back 79%.

But reruns, predictably, fell flat: On CBS "The Mentalist" (1.9/5) and "CSI" (1.7/5) lost more than half of last week's viewers and on Fox a "Bones" repeat (1.6/4) was down 26%. On the CW, "Vampire Diaries" and "Supernatural" were each brought down to earth with a .7/2, which represented only 47% and 70%, respectively, of last week's following.

For the night, ABC and CBS tied for silver with an overall 2.5/7, while Fox finished fourth with a 1.3/4. The CW was in fifth with a 0.7/2.

As for which Olympic sport performs best, while it's not likely many will curl up and watch curling, it may be the narrative as much as the sport, at least for the big events. Indeed, Lindsey Vonn, the Sports Illustrated cover girl, who may aspire to be on the cover of a Wheaties Box, slipped in the slalom and lost a chance at another medal, a fact that was well known before the tape-delayed coverage began.

See how all the shows did in the ratings.
See how all the shows did in the ratings.
Friday-Sunday: Olympics: Hockey heats up as it gets closer to the medal round.
Friday: Great recession got you down? Escape with a great film about escapism, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," on TCM.
Saturday: The next Olympic Games will take place in London in 2012. Catch up on British history with Oscar-winner Helen Mirren in "The Queen," on AMC.
Sunday: Not enough drama from Vancouver? ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers and Sisters" have new episodes.

While it's inevitable a bit of Olympics fatigue may set in, ratings remaining strong for NBC's Vancouver coverage.

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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.

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