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The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes on NBC's Winter Olympics coverage

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, February 26, 2010; C05

Twenty-five percent of men who have watched the Vancouver Winter Olympics have cried, NBC claimed Wednesday.

And about two-thirds of us who are watching the Games are costing the economy who-knows-how-much in lost productivity because we're dragging at work the next day.

Speaking of the economy, 34 percent of us aren't keeping up with our credit card debt because of the Olympics!

As the Olympics head into their final lap, NBC Universal wants you to know exactly what a huge cultural event the Games have been in this country.

According to NBC:

-- 46 percent of those viewers changed their typical routine to watch the Olympics.

-- 34 percent delayed doing laundry or other household chores -- including paying bills -- in order to watch the Olympics.

-- 59 percent said they didn't watch some of their "regular shows" in order to watch the Olympics.

-- 35 percent of viewers cried or became teary-eyed while watching (25 percent among men).

-- 66 percent of viewers cheered aloud while watching the Olympics.

-- 63 percent stayed up longer than usual to watch, resulting in 42 percent being "more tired than normal."

NBC's stats are based on a survey conducted between Feb. 19 and Feb. 22 of nearly 400 viewers between 18 and 64 who reported watching at least three days of the Games for at least an hour a day.

Nielsen, meanwhile, has put out what might be considered more scientifically credible stats with just a few days left in the competition. Turns out the Games skew "chick" -- I know, counterintuitive for sports programming, but let's face it, we're talking about figure skating and ice dancing here.

Nielsen says:

-- Females compose 56 percent of the audience; males make up 44 percent.

-- Ratings among viewers age 55 and older are 82 percent higher than the national average. Conversely, ratings among teens are 57 percent lower than the average.

-- Hispanic and African American ratings are each 74 percent below the national average.

The ratings game

Meanwhile, serious students of TV will be all a-twitter Friday morning as they wait to see whether the Games beat "American Idol" Thursday night.

NBC promises it's not going to wipe the first half-hour of Thursday's competition off the books to artificially inflate its ratings -- like it did Wednesday night. Wednesday is not the first time during these Winter Games that NBC wiped the first half-hour of its prime time from the Nielsen books.

Because the first half-hour is usually lower rated than later half-hours of prime time, removing that half-hour artificially inflates the network's average.

On Wednesday, NBC claimed its prime-time coverage of the Games clocked 20.3 million viewers. Had that first half-hour of prime time been included, it would have dipped below 20 million. NBC was not going to let that happen. The network is able to eliminate that half-hour by simply scheduling it with all "local" ads.

Because "American Idol," which aired from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, beat NBC's Games coverage even when the first 30 minutes of the prime-time Olympics broadcast was removed, you did not hear much squawking from the direction of Fox offices. Yes, despite a shocking lack of, um, talent, on the first Guys Night of "American Idol," the singing competition handily beat NBC's coverage of the Vancouver Winter Games, 23 million viewers to 20 million viewers -- or 19 million-ish if you average in that first half-hour.

But Thursday is a very different matter.

Usually, "American Idol" competitors sing on Tuesday nights and results of viewer voting are announced Wednesday night. But, with 24 singers still in the running, Fox spread their performances over Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and the results were scheduled to be announced Thursday.

When "Idol" results night have fallen on Thursday, they have not typically pulled in as big an audience as the franchise's Tuesday and Wednesday shows.

NBC scheduled ladies' figure skating in prime time Thursday. Ladies' figure skating finals are typically one of, if not the, biggest night of any Winter Games.

Kate the hoofer?

ABC will announce Monday that TLC reality star Kate Gosselin will be one of the hoofers on the next round of "Dancing With the Stars," according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

At press time, the deal was virtually done for the now-divorced mother of eight to become one of the celebrities vying for the cheesetastic Mirrored Disco Ball.

This will be the fulfillment of a dream for Gosselin who, on Jay Leno's ill-fated prime-time show, said she'd like to be on "Stars" because she can't dance. "I want to laugh at myself," Gosselin told Leno. "I so cannot dance."

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