OLYMPICS ON TV — NOBODY’S A WINNER (EXCEPT VIEWERS)
The Olympics are becoming a ratings bonanza internationally for the stations and networks carrying them; they are also crushing every other station and network competing against them. The irony is that because of the enormous rights and technical costs, even most of the stations airing the summer event will wind up spending more than they earn, so that everyone winds up a loser. It’s hard to discern who will lose the most. Initially Comcast had said that it expected to lose about $200 million on its coverage of the Olympics on NBC, its cable outlets, and the Internet. It backed off that figure after initial ratings proved to be far higher than expected, but most of the ads for the NBC coverage had already been sold, and it was difficult to figure out where it would make up the difference. On the other hand, all of the other networks are recording minuscule ratings, leading many to believe they will have to be giving advertisers “make goods” — essentially free ads to make up for their failure to provide a guaranteed number of viewers for their shows. A similar situation exists in Britain, where the BBC is recording record ratings, while ITV is recording them, too — for some of the worst figures in its history. On Sunday it averaged a 4.8 audience share, losing out even to the BBC digital channel. Channel 4 drew a 3.5 share and Channel 5, a 3.2. By contrast, BBC1 had a 42.7 audience share.