Low Olympic Ratings May Bump Up Ads

Wednesday, September 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Lagging TV ratings through four nights of the Olympics mean viewers probably will see less action from Sydney and more commercials.

NBC is averaging a 14.3 national rating with a 25 share, well below the final number produced by any Summer Games and 11 percent short of what the network promised advertisers.

``Not as many people are tuning in as was projected and there's a combination of factors that has led to that,'' NBC Sports vice president Kevin Sullivan said Tuesday night from Sydney.

Now the network most likely will add extra commercials to its broadcasts to satisfy advertisers. NBC's original plan was to air 18 ads per hour, one fewer than during its coverage of the Atlanta Olympics four years ago.

``This will not affect the financial bottom line at all,'' Sullivan said.

Monday night's telecast, featuring swimming and the men's team gymnastics final, drew a 13.8 rating and 23 share. That's a whopping 40 percent below what NBC got for the equivalent day in Atlanta four years ago.

It's also 27 percent lower than what the same day received at the 1988 Seoul Games — the last time the Summer Olympics were staged this late in the year.

Among the factors that might be hampering the network's audience for the Sydney Games: The 15-hour time difference between Sydney and the East Coast; NBC's decision, based on that gap, to show every second of competition on tape, anywhere from two to 20 hours after it takes place; TV competition from sports like football and baseball.

Yet all of that was taken into account when NBC told advertisers the games would fare no worse than a 16.1 average rating.

Based on that estimate, NBC made $900 million in gross advertising sales, enough to turn a profit on the $705 million TV rights fee paid to the International Olympic Committee and the $100 million in production costs.

The cumulative ratings are 34 percent lower than Atlanta's 21.8 through the first Monday night, 18 percent lower than Barcelona's, and 13 percent lower than Seoul's.

And viewers are being pulled away by the NFL.

ABC's ``Monday Night Football'' drew a 13.5 national rating and 23 share from 9 p.m. to midnight EDT for the Cowboys' 27-21 victory over Washington. There was no contest in the teams' cities — in Dallas, the football game outrated the Olympics 35.9-16.4, while in Washington the split was 33.6-12.2.

Each national rating point represents 1,008,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 100.8 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given program.