Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The NBC Tapes Winning Women, Nielsen Game

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The NBC Tapes Winning Women, Nielsen Game

Article excerpt

The NBC Tapes continue to do exactly what the men who are running the machines wanted - attract the women. You may know the show as the Olympics, or even the Atlanta Games. But at NBC, it's Where The Girls Are.

NBC's female-geared, American athletes-dominated, no-reporting-the-results-as-they-come-in approach to prime-time coverage has alienated many but struck gold with the masses. The strategy has paid off in the only place it counts anymore, the Nielsen game, in which NBC is reversing a long downward spiral of more than two decades.

Prime-time Olympic ratings have declined for each Olympics since the 1972 Games generated a 24.4 rating. (That means 24.4 percent of U.S. homes that had a television were tuned in.) Ratings bottomed out at 17.5 for the '92 Games from Spain. But that trend is being torched. Through Wednesday, NBC's prime-time ratings this year are 22.5, up 26 percent from the same point in 1992.

Overall viewership is up sharply.

NBC's latest estimates are that more than 200 million viewers have tuned in through Wednesday. Viewership among men is up by more than 10 percent over the last Summer Games, in 1992 in Spain. But NBC is loudly trumpeting the fact its ratings are soaring among women, up a whopping 27 percent over '92. It points to three key demographic groups:

* The rating for females ages 18-34 is up 32 percent.

* The rating for women ages 25-54 is up 25 percent.

* The rating for females ages 18-49 is up 26 percent.

NBC isn't broadcasting, it is narrowcasting.

There are dozens of events in these Games. But in watching NBC's prime-time coverage, does anyone know that there are competitions other than equestrian, gymnastics, swimming and diving, track and field or a smidgen of basketball? NBC has shrunk the Games into a relatively small amount of mass-appeal events. It tried to widen its scope Thursday by dropping in baseball and soccer highlights, but the crumbs were so tiny they easily could have been missed by anyone not glued to the tube all evening. …

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