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Olympics or No Olympics… a Ratings Tale

By Mike McHugh March 26, 2010 | 11:33am

The much-anticipated Nielsen February ratings started rolling out this week.  For the majority of Nielsen clients that’s one of the four report cards most stations look forward to getting.  I say most stations because this release presents a quadrennial set of challenges for TV stations and their buyers.  The Vancouver Olympics may be just a memory now, but they’ve left quite a legacy in the short-term for broadcasters.  The February 2010 survey period was influenced by impressive Olympic numbers for most NBC affiliates, which in turn made this rating period anything but normal.   For familiar primetime “hits”, well, some of them took a big hit running against the Olympics!

So what’s a station to do?  With no new numbers on the horizon until mid-June, stations need to find a way to tell their story in spite of the Olympics, in the best possible light, and do it today!  For many non-NBC affils, that means trying to filter out the Olympics completely.  Nielsen tries to help with its traditional “Olympic exclusion book”.  But frankly, most stations won’t take on that premium cost.  So, they do what they always do.  STRATA’s TV and agency clients benefit from the ability to source programs on individual weeks so they can quickly find a way to compare apples-to-apples, that is, their prime against non-Olympic prime.  With millions of dollars at stake, and the business tougher than ever, execs aren’t thinking about gold, silver and bronze right now. They’re focused on the difference between red and black.

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