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NBC Rides American Victories to Break Even

This is what I’m thinking while I take a few days off from watching the London Olympics:

Glad to see that NBC now says it is going to break even on its coverage of the Games because ratings have been so strong instead of losing $100 million on its $1.3 billion investment. NBC executive Steve Burke told the Associated Press the network thinks the ratings are so good because of the pre-Olympic promotion.

I’m not buying that, primarily because most of the promotion on NBC isn’t seen by many people because of the network’s low ratings.

More likely, NBC’s strong ratings are the result of the out-of-this-world performance by American athletes. The gymnasts led by all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas, the swimmers led by Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and other more surprising gold medalists are the reason for the strong ratings.

NBC also has put together terrific four-hour nightly productions and is benefitting from the fact that almost all the reality shows competing on rival networks are unwatchable.

It might just be me, but I actually enjoy watching the gymnastics more on delay when I know the young gymnasts like Douglas have performed well rather than when I worry that one of them will be emotionally shattered by a poor routine when I watch live.

Some local viewers are upset that NBC is holding the conclusion of big events like gymnastics to close to midnight on work nights. But, hey, that isn’t just an Olympic thing. Post-season professional baseball, basketball and football games on network TV end around midnight, too. People in the Eastern time zones forget that much of the country doesn’t have to stay up until midnight to see the end because their time zones are more viewer friendly.

Poor Canada. Its airwaves are about to be polluted by Charlie Sheen’s FX comedy “Anger Management.” CTV’s Olympic coverage is constantly promoting Sheen’s show, which reportedly is likely to be renewed despite a big dip in American ratings since the premiere. FX executives told television critics in Los Angeles recently that Sheen’s classy dad, Martin, will join the cast if the series is renewed. Talk about a big comedown from being President.

Speaking of comedowns, the First Family of reality shows – the Palins – have also been getting their share of promo love during Olympics. Sarah’s hubby Todd is going to be part of a new military style reality show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” that premieres on NBC the night after the OIympics. I’m told that Sarah Palin showed up with her husband at a NBC party in L.A. attended by critics and she looked marvelous.  

She may look good, but former Vice President Dick Cheney created a stir last Sunday when he told a network talk show that picking Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate four years ago was a mistake because she didn’t look capable of being president. Duh. Palin has fought back in the battle of words, but let’s face it she and her family are constantly proving they are much better suited to doing reality shows than she was running the country.   

I thought of “Saturday Night Live” star Seth Meyers’ signature line when I read a front page story in the Buffalo News recently that noted that liberals and Democrats watch MSNBC and conservatives and Republican watch Fox News. Really? Who didn’t know that? I’ve been teaching that people prefer watching the cable news networks that agree wiith their politics for six or seven years in my TV criticism class. It is called preaching to the converted.

My favorite CTV announcer is Rod Black, who is enthusiastic and astute as the play-by-play man on gymnastics. He is almost as good as Al Trautwig, NBC’s play-by-play man on gymnastics.

Channel 2 has been running promos during the Games extolling its 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. news hour as the best in Western New York. It is only the highest rated here because the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” is a big winner locally at 6:30 p.m. Williams’ newscast also is getting huge ratings during the Olympics. Channel 4 won the 6 p.m. battle over Channel 2 in July but the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on Channel 4 is a poor second in this market.


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10 responses to "NBC Rides American Victories to Break Even"

  1. I didn’t see all of the primetime coverage last night, but I hope they at least gave 5 minutes of coverage to Kayla Harrison. First U.S. gold medalist in Judo, and a truly inspiring back story.

  2. Tina says:

    Since liberals are already watching MSNBC and conservatives are already watching Fox, aren’t they basically just preaching to the choir? I guess they are trying to reach the Independent voter hoping to sway in one way or the other.

  3. Jeff says:

    Has anyone noticed the CTV promos for Mob Doctor? I think it looks pretty interesting and there could be a lot of story lines.

  4. Re: Palin… I remember seeing Palin’s response to the Cheney criticism and the first thing out of her mouth was “Dick– I mean, Vice President.” A petty penis joke from a woman who, with 5 kids (the first of which was conceived before marriage) and a daughter who got pregnant by an extremely sketchy guy before she was 18 and another kid who could very well be hers as well (as much as Sarah denies– but she won’t show the birth certificate) has enough questions about her sexual obsessions as it is.

    Palin has extremely thin skin; that’s why she resigned from office and that’s why she feels the need to snipe back at every criticism of her. I’m as conservative as they come, but Palin is a ditz.

  5. P says:

    I (still) don’t understand how NBC could say, with a straight face, that it wasn’t going to at least break even on the Olympics (until now).

    Why, or how, in God’s name, could you spend so much in covering the Olympics that you wouldn’t be able to make a profit off of perhaps the single biggest sporting event in the entire world? (And if it’s not actually the biggest in the US/world, surely it’s not far away.) Semi-relatedly, I know for a fact they capitalize on a lot of free labor, because one of the schools I almost transferred to as an undergraduate had a connection and their undergraduate media students work the Olympics every other year as interns.

    Am I the only one who finds it incomprehensible that they were saying they would make an 8% loss on the entire thing?

    • alanp says:

      They bought the Olympics a long time ago when the economy was much stronger. NBC’s bid was based on that economy. You know where we are today. It was a risk and it looked like they were going to lose the gamble.

      • P says:

        I guess I didn’t think about the cost of buying the rights to the Olympics. Nonetheless, it’s still staggering to me that NBC could have found a way to lose money on the Olympics.

  6. Tom W. says:

    Alan- I’m not sure if you have seen this but 2 is now running promos that Daybreak will now be starting at 4:30am during the week. This makes 2 the latest Gannett station to start their morning show earlier at 4:30am instead of the usual 5am. Many of Gannett’s stations have been moving to this for the past few years now.

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