Olympic Viewing: Another banner night
RATINGS: A month ago, NBC executives were convinced they would lose money telecasting the London Olympics. Five nights into it, they now report the company will at least break even. The games have been far more successful than they dreamed, and the viewership of 38.7 million people Tuesday is just the latest example.
The games have averaged 35.6 million viewers through five nights, up from 31.3 million through five nights in Beijing. Some viewers detach themselves from the news so the results of NBC’s tape-delayed prime time are a surprise to them. Yet it seems clear that many people do the opposite – they seek out the results and base their viewing decisions on them. Tuesday’s coverage, showing the American female gymnasts winning gold, had 7 million more viewers than the night before, when the men’s team fell flat.
FORMULA: Start out with some diving, mix in a Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings beach volleyball match, some swimming and gymnastics. There’s a formula to NBC’s prime time, and it makes the Olympics seem smaller than it is. Hard to argue with success, though.
HOME TEAM: Nice tribute by Bob Costas to the first British gold medal winners, the rowing team of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, and cyclist Bradley Wiggins, also the Tour de France champion. It was a spoiler, though. You knew the British contenders wouldn’t be winning any subsequent competitions NBC showed Wednesday night.
HEARTBREAK: Impossible not to feel for Bronx-born gymnast John Orozco, who wore his heartbreak on his face after a poor performance on the pommel horse eliminated him from medal contention. NBC’s Tim Daggett was at his best in recognizing where Orozco’s routine went wrong and explaining it to viewers.
YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS: Ding Ning, the world’s top table tennis player, tosses a ball in anger after being penalized a point for improperly toweling off in her loss match to Xia Oxia Li in the gold-medal match. Judging by her eyes, she wanted to toss a ball down the throat of Li, who annoyingly shouted in glee with every point she won. Perhaps the over-exuberant Li knew she was ending her longtime bridesmaid status in beating her rival. All the drama! This was no basement ping pong.
COMMERCIAL TIME: There’s nothing new with advertisers trying to wrap themselves in the Olympics, tedious as it gets. Something feels wrong when they try to jump on the medal platform, like with AT&T’s spot that adopted the U.S. women’s gymnastics team only 24 hours after their triumph, using NBC’s Al Trautwig as part of it. Best use of the Olympics goes to Coca-Cola and its salute to athletes at the Paralympic games.