MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Fox's contestants often go on to earn gold records. But NBC has won gold medals, which was enough to put "American Idol" in the silver medal position for the first time in six years.
NBC's Olympics coverage of America's six-medal day, which looked like a highlight reel of the entire games, as opposed to just one night, scored a 9.0/24 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which was 63% higher than the previous evening. Meanwhile, "Idol" was turned down to a 7.0/17, which was only 76% of its Tuesday tune-in.
But at least relative to rivals such as CBS (1.7/5), ABC (1.5/4) and the CW (0.4/1), Fox looked Olympian in its own right, as "Idol" combined with "Human Target" (2.1/6) to end second with an overall 4.5/12.
As for the other networks, most looked like some of the skiers trying to out-race gold-medal winner Lindsey Vonn: Barely out of the starting gate, and the race was over. CBS ran reruns ("The New Adventures of Old Christine," 1.3/4; "Gary Unmarried," 1.4/4; "Criminal Minds," 1.9/5; and "CSI: NY," 2.0/5). As did ABC, which went with an all-sitcom lineup (two episodes each of "Modern Family," 1.8/5 and 1.7/4, "The Middle," 1.7/5 and 1.2/3, and "Cougar Town," 1.3/3 and 1.1/3). And Olympics or not, the CW always seems to repeat its rerun strategy on Wednesday night, and it did again with "Life Unexpected" (0.5/2) and "Gossip Girl" (0.2/1).
As for NBC, while the network is taking a critical beating for not showing Vonn's gutty, gritty race live, the late-afternoon internet buzz built the taped version into a more recent version of "Must-See TV." Indeed, the network's new golden girl brought back ratings shades of glory more reminiscent of the "Golden Girl" era of the mid-1980s and early 1990s.
Thursday: Olympics: Lindsey Vonn vies for gold again, this time in the super-combined. And blades of glory for men's figure skating and women's speed skating, which each have gold-medal events. Non-Olympics: Think it looks cold up on top of Vancouver's Whistler Mountain? You ain't seen cold until you've watched "Fargo," which runs on My Network TV.
Friday: Olympics: Back to the guys, it's the gold-medal final for the men's Super-G. Non-Olympics: Great recession got you down? Escape with a great film about escapism, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," on TCM.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
By the time you read this, it will be nearly impossible to not know if Lindsey Vonn won another gold medal. If so, watch for another great night for NBC.
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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.