A slew of elements -- some under NBC's control, others not -- are
helping the network avoid the TV audience shortfalls that plagued
the last two Olympics and led to the airing of extra commercials.
After consecutive days of double-digit percentage declines, the
ratings rose 22 percent from Saturday night's Salt Lake City-low of
14.0 to a 17.1 for Sunday's coverage from 7:30-11:15 p.m. ET.
That put NBC's prime-time average at 18.3 (each rating point
represents about 1.05 million U.S. TV homes), a number boosted by,
among other things, a scandal in pairs figure skating and naturally
higher interest in an Olympics on U.S. soil.
Ratings are "right about where we thought they'd be," NBC
president Randy Falco said Monday. "I love it when a plan comes
The ratings are 24 percent higher than the 10-day average for
the 2000 Sydney Summer Games on NBC, and 10 percent above the 1998
Nagano Winter Games on CBS. Those are the two lowest-rated Olympics
since 1968, and the networks showed additional commercials to make
up the difference to advertisers who were told they would reach
A big spike for Salt Lake City came from the highest-rated
opening ceremony ever (25.2). If that is taken out, and only the
days with Olympic action are compared, the ratings for the current
Winter Games are about 4.5 percent higher than Nagano's. Still, for
NBC and its sponsors, the opening ceremony certainly counts.
Among other factors are the U.S. team's record medal haul,
shorter prime-time shows, fewer and shorter features, little
competition from other networks, and constant promotion on other
NBC programming, including "Today" and local and national news.