Date: 25th September 2000

NBC Encounters Olympian Hurdles

Unable to fulfill its ratings guarantees to advertisers, NBC will add one or two minutes of commercials per hour as "make-goods" this week, Broadcasting & Cable said in its online edition on Friday, citing an unidentified NBC source.

The source conceded that it "may be difficult" to hit the 16.1-16.5 pledge to media buyers. Friday night's primetime coverage garnered a 15.0 rating and a 26 share; Saturday's, a 16.7/29, the highest numbers so far and especially remarkable for a Saturday night when TV watching generally wanes.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said that NBC may cut its coverage of the 2004 Games in Athens by about ten percent because of the ratings downturn. Ebersol said during a talk with reporters in Sydney: "It's September. America's gone back to work and back to school and people can't make the commitment so it's hard to hold them beyond 11 p.m. ... If you lop off the first half hour and the last half hour, the ratings are actually better than Barcelona (in 1992).

Ebersol also sharply criticized the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's decision to carry most Olympics events live. "
It's a joke," Ebersol said. "I find it really amazing. In terms of a business decision, it's stupid." But CBC Sports exec producer Nancy Lee defended the decision, telling Bloomberg News, "We make programming decisions based on what our viewers want. ... It's a huge disservice to make viewers wait 15 hours for the 100-meter final, for instance, even if a Canadian isn't in it."

The CBC's ratings are down about 5 percent from the Atlanta Games in 1996; NBC's are down 38 percent.

Source: Studio Briefing