February 26, 1998 in Features

Olympics Give Cbs A Disappointing Ratings Victory

The Associated Press
 

Bedeviled by the weather, time differences and some lackluster competition, CBS’ primetime Olympic coverage ended with the lowest ratings of any winter games since 1968.

The games drew an average 16.2 prime-time rating and 26 share, forcing CBS to give millions of dollars’ worth of free commercial time to advertisers because the coverage did not draw the audience that was expected.

The ratings were 42 percent lower than the Lillehammer games of 1994 and 13 percent below Albertville in 1992. Nielsen Media Research has been tracking Olympic coverage since 1968, and only that year’s Grenoble games scored lower than Nagano.

While acknowledging the Olympics did not give CBS the boost it had sought, CBS President Leslie Moonves said the network would not lose money on the games.

“Overall, we’re not thrilled,” he said. “I wouldn’t deny that the numbers have been disappointing. But we’re going to do just fine.”

CBS easily won last week’s primetime race with a 15.8 rating and 25 share, Nielsen said Tuesday. NBC was second with an 8.5 rating and 13 share, while ABC and Fox had identical 8.4 ratings and 13 shares.

While NBC and ABC essentially conceded defeat and scheduled a steady stream of repeats during the Olympic period, Fox programmed aggressively, and the strategy paid off with strong numbers.

Two of Fox’s controversial “reality” specials, “Surviving the Moment of Impact” and “World’s Scariest Police Chases,” finished among the week’s top 20 shows.

ABC scored with the first part of its “Oprah Winfrey Presents” miniseries, “The Wedding.” It was the week’s most-watched non-Olympic broadcast. That made up for the disappointing ratings of ABC’s two-part Motown special.

The Olympics coverage had two positive side benefits for CBS: It helped David Letterman beat Jay Leno in late-night ratings for the first time since 1995 and gave the “CBS Evening News” its first outright win in the ratings since February 1994, during the Lillehammer Olympics.

Last week, the CBS news program had a 9.3 rating and 18 share, the “NBC Nightly News” had a 9.1 rating and 17 share, and ABC’s “World News Tonight” had an 8.6 rating and 16 share.

Prime-time ratings as compiled by Nielsen Media Research for Feb. 16-23. Top 10 listings include the week’s ranking, with rating for the week, season-to-date rankings in parentheses, and total homes.

An “X” in parentheses denotes a one-time-only presentation. The rating is the percentage of the nation’s estimated 98 million TV homes. Each ratings point represents 980,000 households.

1. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Friday,” CBS, 23.2, 22.7 million homes.

2. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Wednesday,” CBS, 20.7, 20.2 million homes.

3. “Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Wedding, Part 1,” ABC, 16.8, 16.4 million homes.

4. (2) “Seinfeld,” NBC, 15.0, 14.7 million homes.

5. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Monday ,” CBS, 14.9, 14.6 million homes.

6. (7) “60 Minutes,” CBS, 14.0, 14.6 million homes.

7. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Thursday,” CBS, 13.9, 13.6 million homes.

8. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Tuesday,” CBS, 13.5, 13.2 million homes.

9. (4) “Friends,” NBC, 13.1, 12.8 million homes.

10. (1) “E.R.,” NBC, 12.8, 12.5 million homes .

11. (X) “Surviving the Moment of Impact,” Fox, 12.3, 12.0 million homes.

12. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Saturday,” CBS, 12.0, 11.7 million homes.

12. (X) “XVIII Olympic Winter Games-Sunday,” CBS, 12.O, 11.7 million homes.

12. “The X-Files,” Fox, 12.0, 11.7 million homes.

15. “3rd Rock From the Sun,” NBC, 11.8, 11.5 million homes.

16. “The World’s Scariest Police Chases,” Fox, 11.2, 10.9 million homes.

17. “NBC Monday Night Movie: A Few Good Men,” NBC, 10.9, 10.6 million homes.

17. “NYPD Blue,” ABC, 10.9, 10.6 million homes.

19. (3) “Veronica’s Closet,” NBC, 10.8, 10.5 million homes.

20. “King of the Hill,” Fox, 10.0, 9.8 million homes.

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