NBC Drops Olympic Baton in Relay With Advertisers

The Olympics limped across the finish line, with weekend ratings dropping below levels achieved the week before--well short of both NBC's projections and viewing of past Summer Games, based on estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Olympic ratings slipped below an average of 20 million viewers in prime time for the only time during the 16-day event. While the Games from Sydney, Australia, provided NBC another easy weeklong ratings victory, the results didn't approach what NBC promised advertisers, forcing the network to provide free commercial time--known as "make-goods"--to compensate sponsors for the viewer shortfall.

The other question will be whether the Olympics help NBC launch its new prime-time lineup. The evidence of such a "halo effect" was mixed as the new TV season officially began on Monday (see Morning Report).

CBS, meanwhile, ended its own bizarre game with the final "Big Brother," which--after nearly 90 days--attracted a solid audience of young adults but didn't come anywhere near the mass appeal the European import has enjoyed in other countries. The network also previewed the new drama "That's Life," starring Heather Paige Kent, in the hour after "60 Minutes." The series fared well despite the Olympic competition and lands in its regular time slot this Saturday.

Cable Top 10

Here are Nielsen's top 10 cable programs in prime time last week, also ranked by total viewers (in millions).


Net- View- Program work ers 1. Sunday Night Football ESPN 7.58 2. Wrestling (Mon., 10 p.m.) USA 7.45 3. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) USA 6.77 4. Sex and the City HBO 5.35 5. NFL Primetime ESPN 4.49 6. "U.S. Marshals" (Sun.) TNT 4.39 7. "U.S. Marshals" (Fri.) TNT 4.37 8. Wrestling (Mon., 9 p.m.) TNT 4.07 9. "Lake Placid" HBO 3.26 10. Sex and the City (Sat.) HBO 3.07


Network Averages

Here is the number of viewers that each network averaged per hour of prime time, for last week and for the season.


Last Season week to date NBC 20.38 million 11.68 ABC 9.80 12.73 CBS 7.85 11.36 FOX 7.51 8.07 UPN 3.70 3.78 WB 3.44 3.25


Southland Viewing

Here are Nielsen's Top 10 prime-time programs in the Los Angeles area during the same week. The rankings are based on the number of households watching.


Sta- House- Program tion holds 1. "Olympics" (Mon.-Sun.) KNBC 814,036 2. That's Life KCBS 562,328 3. Millionaire (Sun.) KABC 471,284 4. Big Brother (Fri.) KCBS 465,929 5. 60 Minutes KCBS 460,573 6. Millionaire (Thur.) KABC 433,796 Millionaire (Tue.) KABC 433,796 8. Hopkins 24/7 KABC 412,374 9. The Practice KABC 401,663 10. Malcolm in the Middle KTTV 396,307


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