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September 30, 2014

NBC has best Saturday in 18 years

by Brett Love, posted Aug 18th 2008 8:23AM
Agnieszka Bednarek - Poland Olympic VolleyballNBC couldn't have asked for a better Olympian than Michael Phelps. His chase after Mark Spitz's record has been a huge draw for viewers. So, it came as no surprise when I saw that Saturday night, with the record breaking 8th gold, did huge numbers, clocking in with 31.1 million viewers. What did come as a surprise was the big event from 18 years ago that topped Phelps reaching his goal. Surely it had to be something like a big sporting event, a dramatic news special, or something of the sort, right?

Not quite. Saturday, Feb. 24, 1990, 31.4 million viewers tuned in to watch Empty Nest. Wow. That says much more about the growth of cable TV and how the big networks have abandoned Saturday than it does about the success of the Olympics. At a time when half that number is the stuff of a hit show, it seems strange to think that 31 million people were watching Empty Nest.

Despite finishing the Phelps story, the Saturday broadcast was only a minor increase for the network. After nine days NBC is averaging 30.1 million viewers for the primetime broadcasts. Imagine what they could do if they'd stop running gymnastics after 11PM...

It all leads up to a poorly conceived quote from NBC Universal president and CEO, Jeff Zucker. He said, "This event shows the pipes work and that if you put on great programming that people want to watch, then they'll show up." People will watch great programming is kind of obvious. Zucker would be better off not talking about that though, because once the Olympians pack up their gym bags and head home, the network will most likely slide back to its all too familiar fourth place slot. And, now that he's assured us that the pipes work, our only conclusion is that, "If you put on crap programming that nobody wants to watch, then they won't show up."

Oh, and the picture is Agnieszka Bednarek, from Poland's Olympic volleyball team. She really has nothing to do with the story, but that USA vs Poland match was excellent. And would you really rather look at a picture of Jeff Zucker?

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Will

Empty Nest! That is so hard to believe that a sitcom could draw that many viewers. If it had been a well-known show like Seinfeld, Cosby or Mash,etc. etc. it wouldn't suprise, but I never would have guessed that one. Nothing against the show, I think I might have actually watched it, Richard Mulligan was great. I think it's a safe bet to say that we'll never again see rating like that for a sit-com. People today have too many other options competeing for their time.

August 19 2008 at 3:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Europa

"Mash, The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and the Carol Burnett show all of which played on a Saturday."

Umm... I'm pretty sure all of those shows were CBS shows, not NBC.

And I'm so sick and tired of the networks (not just NBC because ABC and CBS have done it too) holding us hostage for the Olympic events most people want to see.

It's my understanding that Beijing is 12 hours "a head" of east cost time and therefore 15 hours a head for the west cost. Why the f**k (pardon my language) are they making us wait until after 11:00 PM for the marquee events??!!!! Stupid. Put the "good stuff" on from 8-11 you idiots, let us have our regular local 11 PM news, and then put the smultz on after 11:30. Geeze. I sear, TV execs are just plain brain dead.

August 18 2008 at 6:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
smashthesymbols

That was pretty irritating wasn't it Rico. I did want to see Phelps, but they could have shown the 100m before the swimming instead of wasting two hours on a marathon. Why did I have to sit around for 13 hours to see an event that takes under 10 seconds? NBC's little game worked though, I sat through their coverage all night for that. I had to. All day I heard about how he beat everyone easily and shattered the record even though he pulled up early and jogged the last 20m. I figured it was all exaggerated and wanted to see it for myself.

August 18 2008 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Man

That was a great episode of Empty Nest both Laverne and Charley were upset with Harry. Oh the grumpy Harry he learned his lesson.

August 18 2008 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Man's comment
Tim

OK - you made me look it up: turns out, it was a "very special episode pf EMPTY NEST.

"Love is Blind"
First aired: 2/24/1990
Production Code: 041

Carol dates a blind man (Michael Sabatino) and focuses only on his disability, ignoring the fact that he is rude and obnoxious. Jeffrey Millstein is nervous about a chess tournament.

To quote those FABULOUS NBC PSA's... and now you know.

August 18 2008 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Man

I think you are mistaken that was the previous week's episode this is the correct one...

Episode 20:
GOODBYE MR. DIETZ
February 24, 1990

August 19 2008 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
GL

Empty Nest? How awful.

@Rico: It's amazing to make it seem like a network choosing to air sports with successful US athletes to a US audience during their most prized time slots is somehow a strange thing to do. Especially an event that is already in the books.

August 18 2008 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Oreo

NBC 10-12 years ago had Profile and The Pretender and Freaks and Geeks, Dark Skies all were on Saturday night, and all ended very badly.

August 18 2008 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Larry

I wasn't watching Saturday for the Phelps race. He's a local boy 'round these parts, but I was tired of it all by Saturday. No, i was watching on Saturday for the men's 100m dash final. It had been run at 10:30am EDT Saturday. I knew who had won, and how fast he had run it. NBC advertised that it would be shown in "Prime Time". Why they couldn't have shown it live at 10:30am is anyones guess. Well, I guess NBC now defines 11:40pm as 'Prime Time', because that is when they finally decided to show use 'The World's Fastest Man' ease up in the last 20m and still break his own world record. No, NBC must have decided it just wouldn't be entertaining enough for the US audience, because he was from Jamaica. I'm sure we will have to wait until llate to see him win the 200m, too, because I'm sure there will be an important trampoulining final or heaven help us, MORE BEACH VOLLEYBALL! Or maybe Mary Carillo eating some strange creature off of a stick.

August 18 2008 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan

Well at least they're taking full advantage of the Olympics to fully promote their shows. You have no idea how many people I know are now hyped up for Heroes *and* want to start watching Chuck.

Though the reactions for Kath & Kim is decidedly mixed among my friends.

August 18 2008 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike

They really have let saturdays go to pot. I can remember as a kid in the 70's watching Mash, The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and the Carol Burnett show all of which played on a Saturday. I think at this point they've made it a self fulfilling prophesy, Saturday has lower rating so we'll put on our crap shows, and the lower ratings of the crap shows reinforce their decision. I won't deny less people watch tv on a Saturday vs a Sunday, but putting on your castoffs only exacerbates the problem.

August 18 2008 at 9:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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