NBC is duly proud of its perf during the past week nights with boffo numbers harvested from the Beijing summer Games.
The primetime average for the first seven nights is an eye-popping 30.6 million viewers, up 13% from the comparable period in the 2004 Athens summer Games.
In adults 18-49, the Olympic pageantry and competish has delivered an average 10.5 rating, up 12% from the perf at this point in the Athens games. The numbers are up, Beijing vs. Athens, in the elusive younger demos as well: up 10% in adults 18-34 (8.9); and 8% in persons 12-34 (8.0). The biggest bounce has come in the male demos -- thank you, Michael Phelps -- with viewership posting a lofty 23% spike in men 18-34 (8.6); a 17% gain in men 18-49 (9.9); and a 20% jump in males 12-34 (7.8).
So NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker can be forgiven for frothing a bit in an interview Friday morning with CNBC's "Squawk Box" about the ratings and the additional $10 million in ad coin that NBC U has booked since the Games began. Zucker has spent the past year talking up NBC Universal's cable and international portfolio and how it's transforming the House that Sarnoff Built. But he did a verbal victory dance celebrating the unparalleled reach of broadcast TV in his gushy interview with CNBC's Carl Quintanilla, Joe Kernan and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
(For really gushy dispatches from Beijing, check out NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman's reportage for Ryan Seacrest's KIIS-FM show. "Beijing Ben" sounds like he's having an "amazing" time in China, but it kinda begs the question of who's minding the store in Burbank as Silverman's first slate of shows prep for launch next month?)
Pictured above: "Today" co-host Meredith Vieira flanked by members of the U.S. women's gymnastics team.
"This shows the power of network television," Zucker said. "In the four years since we last had the Olympics in Athens and eight years ago since we were in Sydney, the erosion of network television has been pronounced, and there's no way of getting around that. But the fact is that this event shows the pipes work, and that if you put on great programming that people want to watch, then they'll show up. That's what happened on NBC. So this really is a great watershed moment for network television. It's great for NBC, but it's great for all of network television. It's a great moment for our multiscreen on-air, online, on the go (efforts) -- the digital aspects of these games has been huge, (but) it does come back to network television."
"Watershed" is a big word. NBC would seem to be in the catbird seat right now with the Games serving as a gi-normous promotional platform for its fall shows. Certainly, the network has not stinted on the promo tonnage it has devoted to its fall newcomers, particularly the Christian Slater drama "My Own Worst Enemy" and Molly Shannon-Selma Blair laffer "Kath and Kim."
But there is no certainty that those promo GRPs will translate to success in September. For evidence, we need only look back at the Peacock's track record with new skeins in fall 2004: "Father of the Pride," "LAX," "Hawaii," "Medical Investigation." A huge promo push might help the opening night number, but over the long haul, it's gonna be all about the merits of the shows.
There have been reports of creative issues bedeviling some of NBC's frosh hopefuls. "Worst Enemy" just got a new showrunner, and "Kath" has undergone a lot of changes since it was greenlit. That's not unheard of at this time of year for new shows, but it's not exactly a good sign, either -- just like it's kind of a headscratcher that crix haven't seen any completed segs of either show, as Variety noted this week in a story about the overall post-strike lag in getting screeners from the Big Four and CW.
To his credit, Zucker seemed to be managing expectations when asked to predict how NBC's primetime would fare in the fall.
"Obviously our goal (is) to improve this fall with NBC Entertainment," Zucker said. "I'm not going to make any predictions about where we'll be but the key is we have to improve. We have to show improvement, and that will be important for us."
Zucker then answered the obligatory question about NBC's decision to radically change the Peacock's greenlighting process and forgo pilots for most projects ("I don't look at it as flying blind; I look at it as riding the horse we bet on"). He also took some good-natured, suck-up ribbing from the "Squawk Box" trio about the splashy cover story on him in this month's Portfolio magazine.
But as it became clear that CNBC was dragging out its live-from-Beijing airtime with the Big Boss, Zucker's old instincts as a producer of a live two-hour morning television show kicked in.
"Did the next guest not show up, by the way?," he asked, knowingly.