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usual suspects

You might think that an Olympics in which Canada won a single gold medal, in which many of its favourites underachieved and where three major stories were negative ones would be a ratings disaster. You would be wrong.

Despite the paucity of gold, relay disqualifications, Norwegian soccer refs, big names falling short and a time delay that pushed major events earlier in the day, Canadians couldn't get enough of the Olympic coverage live and on tape via the TV consortium of Bell and Rogers. According to the Consortium, viewership (based on hours tuned) was up 88 per cent over the 2008 Beijing Games.

In all, 31.9 million Canadians samples some part of the Olympic telecasts. Sunday's live Closing Ceremony was watched on average by 7.5 million viewers on CTV, more than three times the audience of the closing ceremony in Athens in 2004.

Canadian coverage averaged 2.1 million for the Consortium's 22 hours of daily coverage from July 28- August 5. It also drove people to their sets: television viewing in Canada increased 13 per cent during the Games versus the same days last year. English and French broadcasters of the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games achieved more than 2.5 times (+158 per cent) the audience compared to the same period last year. Among the highlight events from the two weeks (courtesy Canadian TV Consortium):

RankAverage AudienceEventNetworksDate
16.2 millionAthletics: Men’s 100m FinalCTV, V and RDSSunday, Aug. 5
23.8 millionWomen’s Soccer Semi-Final: CAN/USATSN, CTV and VMonday, Aug. 6
33.1 millionAthletics: Men’s 1500m Semi-FinalCTV and VSunday, Aug. 5
43 millionSwimming: Women’s 50m Freestyle FinalCTV and RDSSaturday, Aug. 4
53 millionAthletics: Women’s 400m Hurdles (Round 1)CTV and VSunday, Aug. 5

Mixed Success: On an artistic basis, the ratings justify CTV's gamble in borrowing the Games' rights from CBC for four years. But it likely still won't turn the 2010/ 2012 Olympic package (bought for $153-million) into a financial winner. Had the Consortium's healthy digital numbers produced similarly healthy revenues, they might have broken even. You could make the argument that CTV was making an investment that they'll reap in future Games, but CBC is now taking the Canadian TV/ digital rights back for 2014/2016.

Despite the high ratings for Vancouver and London, neither CTV nor Rogers feel the math works for the next Olympic cycle. In the end, the lone interested party, CBC, insists it will break even. If it gets comparable numbers to these and can fully monetize digital, they just might do it.

CBC gave an idea how it might operate the Games at break-even on Tuesday when it announced it will sublet aspects of its FIFA soccer TV rights package to Sportsnet (The deal allows Sportsnet to call itself a licensed broadcaster). So, among events Sportsnet will share are the the U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada in 2014 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup from Brazil. CBC owns the FIFA TV package in Canada through 2015 when TSN takes it over.

CBC chairman Hubert LaCroix hinted that CBC will do the same subletting with its Olympic package when he announced acquisition of the IOC rights on the first day of the London Games. At the time he mentioned doing a deal with TSN, but a CBC source says it may also work with Sportsnet for the Olympics. Former CBC sports executive Scott Moore is now heading Rogers broadcast and media properties.

NBC Numbers: NBC finished its Olympic coverage the way it started, preempting the prime time taped version of Closing Ceremony to preview its new daffy (!) sitcom Animal Practice and show late local news. It then showed the performance by The Who (as in Who's watching at midnight?) In all, NBC shaved almost an hour from the running time of the Closing Ceremony. NBC did relinquish on its tape policy earlier in the day, showing the USA gold medal win over Spain in men's basketball on live TV.

But don't look for them to change their delay policy. Overall, the Olympics on NBC prime time averaged 31.1million viewers, up 12 per cent on Beijing and up 26 per cent on Athens. NBC also says that an all-time high of 219.4 million viewers tuned into the London Olympics. But the most-viewed sports on U.S. cable last week were not the Olympics. ESPN's Sprint Cup on Sunday (4.5 million viewers) and ESPN's Green Bay/ San Diego on Thursday (3.4 million) topped anything on sports cable network NBCSC.

And Another Thing: Just in case you think NBC is all one big happy family, catch Dan Hicken at the NBC Jacksonville affiliate losing his mind over Bob Costas not hitting his cue to be out at midnight local time. As a former local guy coming on late after HNIC or CBC News, we can sympathize.

Pratt is back: Just in time for an NHL lockout, the gloves are off in Vancouver sports radio. After being unceremoniously dumped by TEAM 1040, the Vancouver Canucks/ Lions/ Whitecaps host broadcaster, broadcaster David Pratt is back at rival CKNW, going all sports every weeknight from 6-midnight. The veteran will do the 6-9 P.M. slot with Dan Russell closing the final three hours. 
CKNW, which had the Canucks radio rights seemingly forever in the past, will assume the role of scrappy outsider, nipping at the heels of the big boys. It will be fun to see how the prickly Pratt gets back at his old bosses..

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