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Opening Ceremonies Get Attention in L.A. With Strong TV Ratings

July 21, 1996|LARRY STEWART

If the television ratings for the opening ceremonies are any indication, there is more interest in the Olympics in Los Angeles than any other major city in United States except Atlanta.

The L.A. rating was an incredible 29.8, with a 53% share of the audience. The numbers were also impressive in other major cities--a 27.7 rating in New York, 29.2 in Chicago--but L.A. topped all markets outside Atlanta except two medium-sized ones. Sacramento got a 32.2 and Orlando, Fla., a 31.9.

Atlanta drew a 47.6 rating with a 69 share.

The overnight average for the nation's 33 largest markets, which represent 56% of the country's population, was a 27.2 with a 47 share.

Not Super Bowl-type numbers--this year's game on NBC drew a 46.1 with a 72 share--but good enough to thrill Dick Ebersol, NBC Sports president.

"It's a wonderful surprise," he said. "I assumed it would be around a 17. I should have known. Traveling around the last few weeks, I had a sense the country was in a happy mood. We have the good fortune to have the rights to the party."

Billy Payne, the head of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, credited Ebersol with helping persuade Muhammad Ali to light the Olympic torch.

Ebersol was involved from the start, and two NBC producers, David Neal and Tommy Roy, knew two weeks ago. But Bob Costas and Dick Enberg found out Ali was the one doing the honors at the same time as television viewers.

With the opening ceremonies as a lead-in, and a local news break cut down to a couple of minutes, Fred Roggin's network-quality Olympic special that followed on Channel 4 also got an impressive rating, drawing a 14.5 and 26 share to easily win the 10-11 p.m. time slot.

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