Like broadcaster CBS, Turner Network Television saw a big
slide in its Winter Olympic Games ratings this year, with the number diving about 45
percent compared with the Games of four years ago.
TNT averaged a 1.2 rating in its universe for its Olympic
coverage from Nagano, Japan, or about 880,000 homes, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Nagano's ratings were the worse of the three consecutive Olympics that TNT has aired.
This year's 1.2 was well below the 2.2 rating for the
games in 1994 from Lillehammer, Norway, and the 2.4 in 1988 for the games from
Albertville, France, a Turner Sports spokesman said.
TNT did finish February No. 1 in the total-day delivery of
adults 25 to 54 for cable, driven by its daytime Olympics coverage.
The Turner Sports spokesman pointed out that CBS had
control of all of the ad inventory, and it created ratings projections for advertisers for
all of the Olympic coverage, including TNT's. So he wouldn't comment directly on
how big of a disappointment the ratings were.
"Our normal daytime [rating] is 1.2 on TNT, so
it's [the Olympic rating] in the ballpark," the Turner Sports spokesman said.
But during the Television Critics Association Tour in
January, Turner executives expressed high hopes and expectations for their Olympic
coverage, obviously expecting to do more than just match their usual daytime viewership.
They were anticipating that the Games' lofty ratings would lend the network a
"The Winter Olympics are a crucial piece of
programming not only for TNT, but for our whole corporation, Time Warner [Inc.],"
Harvey Schiller, president of Turner Sports, told the press at the tour. "The Games
have provided exciting programming and high ratings for the network, and the synergies and
resources that exist in the Time Warner family have enabled us to maximize the Games'
From Feb. 7 to 21, TNT aired 50 hours of Olympic coverage,
with about 45 hours of that during the day. Most aired from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Hurt by bad weather and other factors, CBS' primetime
Olympic coverage was also a ratings wipeout, but it still boosted the broadcaster to the
lead during the key February sweeps. CBS garnered a 16.2 Olympic rating, down 42 percent
from Lillehammer's 27.8 and below the broadcast network's guarantees to
advertisers. That led CBS to offer make-goods to advertisers during the Games. The Nagano
Games were the second-lowest-rated Winter Olympics.
Although the Olympics didn't perform up to CBS'
expectations, the coverage had a halo effect on the network's other programming. The
CBS News with Dan Rather was tops for the evening news for the first time in three
years, and TheLate Show with David Letterman beat The Tonight Showwith
Jay Leno in metered markets.
The coverage also lifted ratings at CBS'
owned-and-operated and affiliate TV stations.