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Far Below Network’s Forecast : Olympic Ratings to Cost NBC Millions

Associated Press

NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics dominated two weeks of prime time but concluded Sunday with an average rating below the guarantee NBC gave advertisers, and that will cost the network millions, according to Nielsen ratings released today.

NBC, which paid more than $300 million for the rights to the Olympics, won’t comment on the loss, but the Wall Street Journal reported the network will have to give as much as $70 million in commercial time to advertisers who didn’t get as high a rating as they were promised.

The 15 nights of Olympics coverage from Seoul--not counting the opening and closing ceremonies--averaged a 17.9 rating. NBC had promised advertisers 21.2. The 1984 Los Angeles summer games on ABC had averaged 23.2.

NBC began giving advertisers free spots during the second week of the Olympics. A 30-second spot during prime-time coverage cost $330,000.

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Nevertheless, six nights of Olympics coverage took up six places in the top 10 in the A. C. Nielsen ratings for the week ending Oct. 2 and gave NBC a decisive win for the week with a 17.5 rating to ABC’s 12.3 and CBS’ 11.2.

Gerald Jaffe, NBC vice president for research projects, said the network intends to research the reason for the low-rated performance, but is not likely to make the results public.

The time difference between the United States and Korea, the late September timing of the event and a general decline in network ratings are probable contributors.

CBS and ABC rebounded against the Olympics on Sunday when the closing NBC ceremonies, which had a heavy emphasis on Korean culture, ranked beneath the other two networks’ shows.

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