It sure took while for NBC to...


It sure took while for NBC to get on track last night

It could be the theme song for NBC's Olympics coverage (and take your pick of the Supremes' or the Vanilla Fudge's version): You just keep me hanging on.

Last night, you sat there for two hours with your running spikes on -- and, gee, Wally, mom is gonna be sore about what those shoes did to the carpet -- waiting for some track and field.

In those two hours, you got a bit of the decathlon, but that was it. But still you waited, because yesterday was a huge track day.

You watched basketball. You watched volleyball. You watched synchronized swimming. You watched Sally Thorner (great specs, Sally).

Gosh, you're sure patient. At least, NBC hopes you were.

Oh no, O. J.

NBC had kept O. J. Simpson in a limited role during its track coverage. Last night, though, Simpson was put in the blocks. Talk about false starts.

He had little to say about the women's 200 meters that he hadn't said before. And he seemed to have trouble deciding what to call female competitors. Simpson tried "girls" and "ladies." Hey, O. J., they're over 18, and they're not racing in white gloves. The word is "women."

Mean to Joe Greene

The men's long jump did come down to a competition between Carl Lewis and Mike Powell, but an additional American, Joe Greene, finished third. Couldn't NBC have given us a look at one of his jumps?

Tale of Gail

Before the women's 100-meter hurdles (and let's hope this wasn't recorded afterward), NBC analyst Craig Masback had some prescient words. Masback said Gail Devers had the speed to win, but needed the balance going over the hurdles. As it turned out, Devers had speed to spare, and would have won the gold had she not fallen over the last hurdle.

TripleCast in stone

The Olympics TripleCast's blue-light special hasn't generated much extra business, an industry expert has said.

Barry Gould, publisher of PPV Update magazine, told the Miami Herald that total sales of the TripleCast have reached about 200,000, one-tenth of what NBC needed to make a profit on the pay-per-view venture. TripleCast one-day prices were reduced from $29.95 to $19.95 last week.

"About 80 percent of the cable systems saw no significant increase after the prices were reduced," Gould, who polled 700 cable systems, told the Herald.

Knowing the score

There's controversy everywhere at the Olympics, even in the solo synchronized swimming. But NBC didn't mention a scoring dispute in its report on the sport. Where's Bob Trumpy when you need him?

Looking ahead

On tonight's show (channels 2, 4, 7:30-midnight), the star might not be an American. Among the track and field events scheduled is the pole vault final, starring Sergei Bubka of the Unified Team.

In other scheduled events, the U.S. men face Brazil in a volleyball semifinal, American Tim Austin is in a boxing semifinal, John Smith of the United States wrestles for a medal and Jennifer Capriati and Steffi Graf meet for the women's tennis bTC singles gold medal.

Numbers game

It was another down night for NBC in ratings on Wednesday. The network's prime-time Olympic show drew a 15.8 rating and 31 share. On the corresponding night at the Seoul Olympics four years ago, NBC drew an 18.9 rating.

On the other hand, NBC estimates that 87 percent of American television households have watched at least part of the Olympics. The other 13 percent watch nothing but Nick At Nite. About 68 percent of those people really think that night is spelled n-i-t-e.

But I digress.

Through 11 nights, NBC is averaging 18.2/34. After 11 nights from Seoul, the network averaged 18.2/33.

NBC has sworn on Don Criqui's hair spray that it will deliver a 15.3 average rating from Barcelona.

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. And because so many of you have asked, I actually have an assistant who types those two sentences for me each day.

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