The ins and outs of Olympic programming

You know there is a major television event going on when only one network airs new programming and the rest of them go into hiding. Of course I am referring to this summer’s Olympics.

Only a few times per year the networks cool off on the competition – and it’s when they know they don’t stand a chance in the ratings.

Typically the Super Bowl is one of these events. With the majority of the U.S. viewing audience (they don’t care about Canada when it comes to ratings) tuned into the big game, TV networks don’t bother trying to compete.

What ends up happening is the other major networks run repeats. Even in today’s world of people recording shows and watching them later, it’s still a risk that people will miss a new episode of a show. And why bother wasting the money it cost to produce it if there’s a slight chance it will get watched?

That’s not to say all programming is shelved during the two weeks of Olympics coverage. Reality shows that are playing out over the course of the summer continue on, but with lower-than-usual audience numbers expected.

Since NBC spent over $1 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics, there is a lot of attention on the peacock network right now. In fact, since most of NBC’s scripted primetime programming was cancelled at the end of the TV season in May, critics are expecting big promotion of the network’s fall programming lineup during the Games.

If you have watched the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup finals, you know the host network constantly shoves its programming down your throat. When there is a break in play, the on-screen graphics float by and the announcers remind you about the shows. It’s not a way to fill time as they wait for the action to resume. It’s scripted by the promotions department!

At the same time, NBC is being criticized that it is not airing Olympic events live (on TV) and the controversy could work against the network in its hopes to use the large audience to promote its fall programming. People are talking about NBC right now but not for a good reason.

And a tidbit from up here in Canada: CTV reports the Opening Ceremony was watched by an average of 6.4 million Canadians, peaking at 8 million viewers during the three-and-a-half-hour broadcast on July 27.

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