Coming up next . . . skating LILLEHAMMER '94


After all of the buildup, all of the controversy, all of the stories based on unnamed sources and all of Shawn Eckardt's chins, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan skated last night.

But we'll get right back to that story . . .

Blair road

It only took until 9:37 last night before we saw Bonnie Blair skate. Sure, we were told Blair would be next, then CBS showed another pair of speed skaters -- and then some commercials.

She's worth the wait, though. One of the great things about Blair, in addition to her athletic prowess and apparent speed-skating-girl-next-door nature, is that she sounds like she's from somewhere.

So many Americans on television in professional capacities have had their accents bleached from them. Blair speaks in flat Midwestern tones.


Now, we'll get to that skating competition right away. But first . . .

Nice look

In addition to the Blair and Dan Jansen stories, a highlight of speed skating coverage has been the shots from cameras placed on the ice and those that track alongside the skaters.

We're back

The skating coverage commentary is set to go. I know you've been eagerly awaiting it. And it's coming up next. . .

The big story

Best news item last night: short-track speed skater Cathy Turner was up all night because she couldn't produce a urine sample.

Here we go

Next, of course, is a relative term. I'll have something to say about skating soon, really. . .

Numbers game

The story of CBS' Winter Olympics ratings is beginning to sound like a broken record. (For the younger readers in our audience, a broken record refers to the olden days, when a vinyl disk would play the same passage over and over. Someday, kids, I'll tell you all about eight-tracks.)

Tuesday night's prime-time show drew a 25.2 rating and 37 share. Through 10 nights, CBS is averaging 25.9/40 in prime time, up 35 percent from the Albertville Games in 1992.

I don't know, maybe this is just the American viewers' way of thanking CBS for signing David Letterman. (For our older readers, David Letterman is kind of like a latter-day version of Jack Paar. Someday, folks, I'll tell you about Conan O'Brien.)

If the ratings hold up, CBS will beat the record Olympic prime-time average (24.4 for the 1972 Munich Games) by one point and the best Winter average (23.7 for the 1980 Lake Placid Games) by nearly two. Why?

David Poltrack, CBS senior vice president for planning and research (boy, he must have a big business card), accepts the premise that Skategate heightened interest in the Olympics, but said there's more to it.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the situation in Albertville," Poltrack said in a news conference yesterday. "That did surprisingly well. We had very high satisfaction with that event."

So, all of that satisfied audience gets the chance to be satisfied just two years later, and the network fiddles with the schedule a little. Boom -- ratings bonanza.

"Of course, the skating situation helped," he said. "The controversy helped in the pre-Olympic publicity."

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. And we'll be right back tomorrow with a funny line after those sentences. . . .

This time for sure

The figure skating coverage? It was OK.

Thanks for waiting.

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