Halfway through the Winter Olympics, CBS' ratings are holding up pretty well. The network is nearly two ratings points ahead of the average it guaranteed advertisers. CBS has done a fine job covering the Games, but at least one executive said the event is the star.
"We're just thrilled that they [U.S. viewers] are watching," Mark Harrington, CBS vice president for the Olympics, said in a news conference yesterday. "I guess it shows that people want to watch the Olympics."
If people want to watch some of the most exciting moments, they have to wait until the end of prime-time telecasts. Is CBS being unfair to the viewers?
"We are not trying to string anyone along," Harrington said. "We are trying to build a rough chronological order."
But even if there were no rough chronological order to build, what kind of sense does it make for CBS to show its best stuff early in the night? Yeah, let's go right to Bonnie Blair at 8:05; that way, people can go check out "Blossom" over on NBC.
Loosen up, Timmy baby: Many of the other questions for Harrington dealt with the stiff performance of prime-time hosts Paula Zahn and Tim McCarver. It didn't get much better last night, though McCarver still seems the more uncomfortable. And it didn't help matters when McCarver and Zahn traded opening "good evening" greetings. The stilted exchange had all the charisma of a Joe Gibbs car battery commercial.
These are a few of my favorite things: Loved that opening last night -- Van Morrison's "Moon-dance" over a montage of ice dancers. . . . Italian skiing superstar Alberto Tomba may be a bit overexposed, but he still knows his way around a quote: "I am used to having a woman next to me. I must have a woman next to me to feel relaxed." But did he really have to kiss that picture of Zahn?
Don't mess with Bill: A couple of times during features on France's ice dancing Duchesnays, CBS has played a sound bite from a news conference in which a reporter is heard saying: "It's been said you skate a traditional program in an untraditional way. . . ." To which Isabelle Duchesnay replies: "I think you just answered your own question."
The reporter asking and answering his question is The Sun's Bill Glauber.
Looking ahead: U-S-A, U-S-A on T-N-T. CBS has decided to allow TNT to carry the U.S.-France hockey medal-round opener today during the cable network's afternoon program (1-6). . . . This morning (7-9), CBS has scheduled an interview with the American four-man bobsled team that includes Herschel Walker. . . . Other segments this morning include reports on Tomba fans, on former gold-medal skier Franz Klammer and a preview of the men's 1,000-meter speed skating. . . .
Tonight on CBS (8-11), expect to see a good bit of Tomba, who's in the giant slalom, and highlights of the U.S. hockey game.
Ratings game: CBS' overnight ratings (measuring the top 25 markets) for Sunday prime time were a 21.1 rating and 32 share. ABC's comparable Sunday night numbers during the 1988 Calgary Games were 17.1/26. Through nine nights, CBS is averaging 18.9/30, 3 percent higher than ABC through nine nights in 1988. CBS reportedly has promised advertisers a ratings average of 17.0. A rating measures the percentage of all television households watching a program. A share measures the percentage among homes where television is in use.