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Olympic Games Are Ratings Gold

February 13, 2002

The gold-medal performances didn't stop at the Winter Olympics for NBC last week, although the highest-rated opening ceremony on record helped feather the Peacock Network's ratings nest, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Viewing of the Olympics remained strong through the weekend--and ahead of the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan--without approaching the lofty levels attained for Friday's opening event. With only three days of Olympics coverage in its weekly average, NBC's audience soared 90% compared with the corresponding week last year and exceeded tune-in for any two rivals combined. The network has also passed CBS in average overall prime-time viewing for the season.

"Friends," meanwhile, whose cast signed lucrative deals for a ninth season earlier this week, continued its sterling year with a dominant performance for a new episode, followed by the highest rating for a rerun (an episode featuring Brad Pitt) since an installment of "Seinfeld" in 1998. That double dose of "Friends" also funneled viewers into "Will & Grace," which, with a guest appearance by Matt Damon, drew its largest audience ever.

Fox's "Ally McBeal" also showed some signs of renewed life, delivering its highest rating in nine months.

Brian Lowry

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National Nielsen Viewership

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