American Idol takes the gold over Olympics

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For five seasons now, American Idol has reigned supreme on televisions across the country. So was it any surprise that last Tuesday more than 27 million viewers tuned in, a vast difference from the 16.1 million for the Olympics?Since its opening on Feb. 10, the Torino games in Italy have drawn in fewer viewers than the Salt Lake City games in 2002. NBC had expected a low count but was alarmed to see that the increased TV competition had taken its toll. But before this year’s Olympic games had even started, NBC’s average prime-time rating was at 12.7; any lower, and NBC will have to give away free commercial time to its advertisers. NBC Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol commented on the possibility of Idol beating the Torino games, saying in a recent interview, “The most encouraging thing for us at NBC, as we look forward to the Games and their success, is that, according to our research, the intent to view among Americans right now is within one percentage point of what it was going into Salt Lake City.” Ebersol made a point that the nation was enduring tough times. “The competition from Idol is heavier than the Olympics has ever seen,” said NBC Sports spokesperson Alana Russo in an interview. To try and boost the number of viewers, NBC filled more than half of the time slots competing with Idol with a delayed tape of the men’s figure-skating competition. Even figure skating, America’s favorite winter Olympics sport, couldn’t help. When American Idol wasn’t on, NBC’s overall Olympic audience tallied only 18.6 million, making it the least-watched winter Olympics since Nagano’s closing ceremony in 1998. It doesn’t get any easier, with Idol and ABC’s Lost on the air Wednesday and CBS’ Survivor and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation offering more competition on Thursday. American Idol is clearly a phenomenon,” said Randy Falco, president of the NBC Universal Television Group. “But we expected it and are tracking right where we planned to be at this point.” Nonetheless, according to Nielsen Media Research, NBC won the week in prime time overall, averaging 16.5 million viewers, while CBS had 12.6 million, ABC had 11.9 million and Fox only had 11.0 million.