NBC Goes for the Gold In Beijing, Then Denver

NBC beat its competitors for viewers during Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention on Monday.
NBC beat its competitors for viewers during Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention on Monday. (By Charlie Neibergall -- Associated Press)
By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

By offering a bajillion hours of Beijing Olympics, more than any of its previous Games telecasts, NBC was able transform its coverage into the most-watched event in the history of the universe.

Here's a look at last week's Phelpses and baton droppers:


NBC. NBC Universal says Olympics coverage across its various networks was viewed by more Americans than any event in U.S. television history. The audience of 214 million viewers shattered the record of 209 million set during the 1996 Atlanta Games. This is a "reach" number, meaning it covers anyone who sampled as little as six minutes of a telecast. Given that NBC Universal aired many more hours of Games across its broadcast and cable networks than in '96 and that the population has increased rather than declined, it would have been news had the Beijing Games not broken the record.

For the week, NBC averaged 23 million viewers, though that number is inflated because the network got Nielsen to agree to "disappear" 2 1/2 hours of prime time: 8-8:30 Friday, 8-9 Saturday and 7-8 Sunday.

NBC & CNN @ DNC. More people (4.7 million) tuned in to NBC than to any other network at 10 p.m. Monday to hear Michelle Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention. NBC is the only broadcast network to have clocked more viewers in that hour than in the comparable time period at the confab four years ago. That said, NBC didn't beat CNN by much. CNN clocked 4.26 million viewers at that time, more than ABC, CBS, Fox News Channel or MSNBC.

"Law & Order: Criminal Intent." The season finale nabbed 5.2 million viewers Sunday -- a record for the show on USA -- beating CBS, Fox and CW.


"High School Musical: Get in the Picture." ABC will stop at nothing to find out exactly how many people do not want to see a reality series based on "High School Musical." As of last week, the tally was down to 2 million of the country's nearly 290 million TV viewers. Since July, this show has managed to frighten off almost 50 percent of the crowd that was at least curious enough to watch the first episode.

"America's Toughest Jobs." Still basking in the ratings glow of its Games coverage, NBC kicked off the new season of "Deal or No Deal," which logged 11 million viewers. Then the unveiling of the network's highly hyped reality series "America's Toughest Jobs" -- from the "Ice Road Trucker" guy -- fumbled nearly 4 million of those viewers to wind up with just 7.3 million watching.

Denise Richards."It's complicated," Richards said. "No, it's not," responded E! network, yanking the series, which had opened with just 1.5 million watching and went downhill from there.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: NBC's Summer Olympics Closing Ceremonies, Tuesday Games, Monday Games, Wednesday Games, Thursday Games, Sunday "Beijing Closing Party," Friday Games and Saturday Games; and CBS's "Two and a Half Men" and "NCIS."

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