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August 19, 2008

Weekly ratings: Olympics crush competitors

82388200 NBC is running out of ways to describe its stellar Olympics ratings.

During last week's Summer Games coverage, the network enjoyed the most-watched week in total viewers outside of the traditional broadcast season since the Atlanta Games in 1996. It also was the most dominant margin of primetime weekly victory in the history of Nielsen's People Meter ratings measurement. The seven nights of Beijing Olympics coverage took up the seven top rankings for the week in all key measures.

Little noticed in all the fanfare is that NBC's competitors are setting records of their own, having uniformly endured their worst week ever.

From the ratings week ending Aug. 17, ABC, CBS and Fox each had their lowest-rated and least-watched week in recorded People Meter history (which almost certainly means their all-time lowest; People Meters were rolled out in 1987 and broadcast averages have eroded significantly since then). Fox's 3.2 million average marks the lowest-ever turnout for a major network; ABC's 1.1 rating represents the lowest rated in the adult demo.

That all this ratings misery is delivered courtesy of NBC is almost like some cosmic prank. It's as if the least popular kid in high school suddenly became the football quarterback and Prom King.

Not that ABC, Fox and CBS put up much of a fight, mind you. Repeats and reality were the order of the week, and even the reality shows were the dregs of summer. Top-ranked programs like ABC's "Wipeout" and "Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" wrapped their runs before the Games started.

NBC averaged 28.7 million viewers, with a 9.6 average among 18-49 (28 share). Even with the conclusion of Michael Phelps' successful quest to become the most-decorated Olympian in history, interest in the telecasts remained high, with Sunday night's coverage (28.2 million, 9.2/26) keeping pace with Athens four years ago. The coverage peaked last Tuesday (34 million, 12.4/34), lifting the network to its highest primetime rating in the adult demo for any night since the 2004 "Friends" series finale. Saturday's conclusion to Phelps' medal run (31.6 million, 9.2/26) was the top-rated Saturday for the network since a "Golden Girls" episode in 1990 (no, the episode wasn't a finale, that was actually a fairly common number for "Golden Girls" back then ... yeah, I know).

Coming in second for the week, CBS was powered by repeats and "Big Brother," with the reality show managing to largely hold its own against NBC's Summer Games coverage (Tuesday: 6.4 million, 2.4/6). The network's programs took the top four spots below NBC's Olympics coverage in the adult demo.

Fox placed third for the week led by animated repeats like "Family Guy" (3.5 million, 1.7/5). Fox's airings of preseason NFL matchups struggled against the Olympics -- and, in the case of Thursday's delayed game, a thunderstorm. Friday's Oakland at Tennessee game placed third for the night (3.5 million, 1.3/4).

ABC came in fourth, with "High School Musical" hitting a new low on Monday (2.2 million, 0.6/2) and "Wipeout" repeat leading its week (4.8 million, 1.8/5).

Overall, NBC (28.7 million, 9.6/28) led the way, followed by CBS (5.1 million, 1.3/4), Fox (3.2 million, 1.2/4), ABC (3.5 million, 1.1/3) and the CW network (1.5 million, 0.6/2).

NEW POST: NBC's proud commentators vs. volleyball-hating viewers

Also: Here's how Monday night did.

-- Click here for Hollywood Reporter's complete Beijing Olympics coverage --


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