They're still dancing in the aisles at CBS this week - the ratings for the Winter Olympics far exceeded the network's expectations.
According to numbers from the A.C. Nielsen Co., 180 million viewers watched at least some of the 16 days of coverage from Albertville. That's about 10 million more than watched the 1988 Games in Calgary."When all the Nielsen numbers are in, it is expected that three-quarters of all Americans will have watched Olympic coverage," said David Poltrack, CBS' senior vice president of planning and research.
The ratings and shares were down a bit from 1988. CBS averaged an 18.7 rating and a 29 share, while ABC averaged a 19.3/30 from Calgary. But a ratings point represents more homes in 1992 than it did in 1988, so there were actually more viewers this year.
CBS also won 15 of 16 nights during the Games. The previous high was 10 nights (by ABC in '80 and '88).
There were a couple bits of financial news that brought joy to the hearts of the CBS executives. First, the network guaranteed advertisers it would average a 17 rating and did 10 percent better than that. (Meaning all the advertisers got more than they paid for.)
If the ratings had averaged less than a 17, CBS would have had to run "make-good" spots - more commercials for the advertisers at no additional cost. That would have had a terrible economic impact.
And, second, CBS estimates it will break even on the Games. That may not sound like much, but the network has already lost $450 million on its four-year, $1 billion major league baseball contract.
CBS paid $243 million for the rights to the Albertville games, and spent about $70 million on production costs. Industry analysts predicted a loss of up to $50 million on that investment.
Even though the network was reported to have discounted most if not all of the ads it sold for the Games, it still charged about $250,000 per 30-second spot.
Of course, if you're just going to break even, then why bother? Well, the numbers increased CBS' season-long lead over second-place NBC to 1.5 ratings point, effectively guaranteeing CBS will finish the season as the No. 1 network. And although there are those that disagree, CBS executives still insist that being No. 1 attracts advertising dollars.
Of course, what's really making the folks at CBS happy is that they have the rights to the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, too.CHANGING OF THE GUARD?: One of the few half-hours Olympic coverage did not win was this past Thursday at 7 p.m., when "The Simpsons" triumphed.
"The Simpsons," which finished No. 18 for the week, beat CBS' Olympic coverage by two ratings points and the third-place "Cosby Show" by three. That's the first time Fox's animated show has ever beaten an original episode of "Cosby."CBS WINS AGAIN: According to Nielsen, CBS was an easy winner in the ratings battle last week, averaging an 18.9 rating and a 30 share. NBC was second with a 12.9/20, ABC third with a 12.3/19 and Fox fourth with an 8.0/12.
Here are the top 10 shows for the week ending Feb. 23: 1. Olympics (Friday), CBS; 2. "6O Minutes," CBS; 3. Olympics (Wednesday), CBS; 4. Olympics (Monday), CBS; 5. "Roseanne," ABC; 6. "Home Improvement," ABC; 7. "Full House," ABC; 8. "Coach," ABC; 9. "Olympics (Saturday), CBS; 10. (tie) movie: "What She Doesn't Know" and "Unsolved Mysteries," both NBC.