NBC dominates the ratings with Figure Skating and Moguls

Jim Williams Contributor
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For Canada, last night was huge. NBC Mogul’s broadcaster Todd Harris said it best: “Oh, Canada. The drought is over. Alexandre Bilodeau has won gold.”

Bilodeau made history at Cypress Mountain, becoming the first Canadian to earn Olympic gold on home soil when he won the men’s moguls competition. Team USA’s Bryon Wilson took bronze. At the end of two days of competition, the United States leads the medal count with six (one gold, two silver, three bronze).

Harris did a great job of setting the scene before Alexandre Bilodeau’s run: “All of Canada holds their collective breath. From Cape Spear, Newfoundland to White Horse, Yukon. Will tonight be the night the home soil gold medal drought ends?”

The drama of the coverage was awesome to me because of the two talented men who were left to compete. You had Dale Begg-Smith, a Vancouver native who now competes for Australia and the talented Frenchman Guilbaut Colas of France, both with a chance to unseat Bilodeau. But he was able to hold one despite some real drama at the end to score a gold medal.

Bob Costas put a great punctuation mark on the end of the story when he remarked on Bilodeau’s on-air kiss from his girlfriend: “Judging by the scene with Bilodeau immediately after Tina [Dixon]’s interview, this is going to be a very good Valentine’s Day for him all the way around.”

Over at the Figure Skating venue, the Pairs competition got underway with the short program. As always the team of Tom Hammond, Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic, Tracy Wilson and reporter Andrea Joyce had all the angles covered.

After the Short Program China’s Shen Xueand Zhao Hongbocan are so close to the gold they can almost touch the Olympic title that has eluded them in three other games.

Hammond’s comments after their flawless performance were spot on: ”Shen-Zhao onn this Valentine’s Day, their story is essentially a love story but also a story of courage and of dedication and of determination.”

Hamilton knew that this is the last Olympic games for this duo and he summed it up perfectly: “To have an Olympic dream like this and to have it mean so much, so late in their career, and to skate like that is a miracle.”

Best interview of the night went to Bob Costas and his conversation with women’s freestyle moguls gold medal winner Hannah Kearney.

Kearney on defeating gold medal favorite and Canadian Jenn Heil: “I came here to win the gold medal. I had consciously thought about how your skiing would change if you were skiing for the silver medal. It would’ve been easy to give it to Jenn. She’s on her home turf. She’s an unbelievable competitor. But I had made up my mind days before that that was not going to happen.”

Kearney on redemption: “It really did truly feel like redemption. – And there’s no way to describe the extreme disappointment I felt after Torino. I was absolutely devastated. I felt like my life was over. – I just felt like I let my friends, my country, myself down. And that’s a pretty big burden to shoulder. So coming back and winning here in 2010 in front of all my family, and the closest I’m going to get to a home Olympics, was so satisfying.”

Through Saturday, 97 million people have watched the Vancouver Olympics Winter Games on the networks of NBCU; nine million more than watched the first two days of the Torino Games in 2006 (88 million) and the most since the tabloid-fueled 1994 Lillehammer Games (100 million), according to data released today by Nielsen Media Research.

“It’s simply remarkable for a Saturday night, television’s least-watched night, to surpass the audience total for every one of the 17 nights of the last Winter Olympics without the benefit of figure skating – the single biggest event in a Winter Games – which was the featured event of the first Saturday night in Torino,” said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics.

MORE VIEWERS THAN EVERY NIGHT IN TORINO: The first night of competition on NBC averaged 26.2 million viewers and did not feature figure skating, 13 percent higher than the first Saturday night in Torino (23.2 million), which featured figure skating (pairs short program). The average audience from Saturday night is higher than EVERY SINGLE NIGHT of the Torino Games. This is especially remarkable given that Saturday night traditionally has the smallest audience of any primetime night.

NBC’s Saturday night broadcast was seen by 55 million total viewers, six million more than the first night of competition from Torino (49 million).

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his columns and blog, on