NBC's Sydney Olympics coverage drew the lowest ratings for a Summer or Winter Games since 1968.
The cumulative Nielsen rating for the 17 nights of telecasts was 13.8 with a 24 share.
That's 36% lower than the 1996 Atlanta Games, and 21% lower than the 1988 Seoul Games, the last time the Summer Olympics were held this late in the year.
More significant, it is more than 20% lower than what NBC Sports predicted (17.5 to 18.5) it would get, and nearly 15% worse than sponsors were promised (16.1).
The ratings forced NBC to show extra commercials from early on in its coverage to satisfy advertisers. Despite that, NBC says, the network will turn a profit in the tens of millions of dollars on its investments of $705 million in rights fees and $100 million in production costs.
No Olympics fared so poorly since 1968, when ABC paid $7 million for the U.S. TV rights to both the Summer and Winter Games, and drew ratings slightly above 13. Sunday night's final broadcast from Sydney, which included taped coverage of the men's marathon and closing ceremony, was 10.9 with a 17 share. MSNBC and CNBC both averaged a 0.7 rating for their daily coverage from Sydney. Each rating point represents a little more than 1 million TV homes for NBC.