NBC won yet another prime-time week thanks to Olympics coverage but, interestingly, did not rank No. 1 in every half-hour in which it ran Games play.
Here's a look at the week's highs and lows:
Summer Olympics. An average of 24.6 million viewers watched NBC's coverage of the Games from Athens. This is up 14 percent from the 21.5 million who watched NBC's coverage of the Sydney Games in 2000, the lowest-rated Olympics in TV history. But the audience for the Athens Games was smaller than the 26 million (technically 25.84 million) who watched the '92 Summer Games in Barcelona. We mention this because NBC says the Athens Games are the most watched non-U.S.-hosted Summer Games in history. NBC also says 203 million people "watched" the Games on NBC plus its various cable networks that telecast the Games in daytime and late night. That stat is a "reach" number and refers to anyone who watched as little as six minutes of competition in the course of the entire 17 days of the Olympics. It is not the number that goes into the record books; it is of interest to advertisers who believe that watching for six minutes means you saw an ad break. And, if you think about it, that means you actually saw only about three minutes of Olympics.
CBS. CBS won four half-hours of prime time in which NBC was broadcasting Olympics last week. This was not because of brilliant programming but because one of the ways NBC goosed its prime-time average for the Games was by designating as "sustaining" the first half-hour of Games broadcasts on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. This means those half-hours were technically not rated by Nielsen. Generally, the first half-hour of coverage is the lowest-rated. NBC got away with this by running no national ads in that time -- the same way it runs "sustaining" (with no ads) the president's annual State of the Union address. Those ads you saw in those half-hours last week were purchased through your local NBC station.
"George Lopez." CBS won four of those half-hours in which NBC designated its Games coverage as "sustaining." ABC's sitcom won the fifth. Way to go.
MTV Video Music Awards. The most watched cable show last week and, in fact, in the month of August, was MTV's Sunday telecast of the VMA show with its average of 10.3 million viewers. This is no small feat given that, by all accounts of the trophy show, it sucked. Plus, it played opposite the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Plus, it was telecast from Miami instead of New York, the country's No. 1 TV market, or Los Angeles, the No. 2 market. Maybe it did as well as it did because of that "rumor" (industry euphemism for "floated by publicist") that Britney Spears would stage her second wedding on the telecast. Spears was, in fact, a no-show.
Mark Burnett. What a terrible week it was for the reality TV impresario. First, the finale of his Fox reality series "The Casino" sank to an embarrassing 3.5 million viewers. Burnett said yesterday in a phone interview that it was his worst TV work ever and he'll never do that again -- like there was any chance Fox would renew it. Then, Burnett lost his court bid to block the Sept. 10 debut of Fox's boxing competition series, which he and his producing partner Jeffrey Katzenberg claim is a ripoff of their boxing competition series for NBC, which debuts in November. And finally, Burnett learned that production on his new WB sitcom "Commando Nanny" had to be postponed because of co-star Gerald McRaney's emergency cancer surgery.
The week's 10 most watched prime-time programs, in order, were: NBC's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday coverage of the Summer Olympics, coverage of Sunday's Closing Ceremonies, and Saturday's Games coverage; and CBS's "CSI" rerun, "Amazing Race 5" and "Without a Trace" repeat.