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TV Note: 2/12/02

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

NBC hits ratings gold

Nearly 46 million people watched the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City on Friday night -- the opener's biggest audience ever.

That's about 3 million more viewers than for the Academy Awards last March, which is usually the TV season's second-most-watched show, behind the Super Bowl. (Earlier this month, the Super Bowl averaged nearly 86 million viewers.)

On Saturday during prime time, nearly 30 million viewers caught the first night of competition, according to preliminary figures.

NBC boasted that 72 million people checked out at least some portion of Friday night's program, which is to say they watched as little as six minutes.

Friday's broadcast packed in nearly 70 percent more viewers than the start of CBS's broadcast of the 1998 Winter Games opening ceremonies, from Nagano, Japan.

It's all good for NBC, which got stung when the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney suffered the lowest prime-time Olympics ratings since 1968, owing partially to the tape-delaying of events for U.S. audiences because of time differences. The opening ceremonies for the Sydney Games averaged about 40 million viewers.

(Lisa de Moraes, The Washington Post)

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