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April 23, 2014

Ratings: 5 Ways NBC Can Keep Its Momentum Going After the Olympics

by Laura Prudom, posted Feb 24th 2010 4:00PM
Bode Miller OlympicsWhile the Winter Olympics may not have offered viewers much in terms of surprises, they've certainly provided ratings analysts with some gasp-worthy news: The daily coverage from Vancouver has allowed NBC, much like Lazarus, to rise from the dead (read: perpetual fourth place in network ratings) and steal third place for the first time since 2004.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Peacock has been averaging 26 million viewers per Olympics telecast, gaining 12 percent this season-to-date and unceremoniously dumping ABC into fourth position over the past 10 nights.

Is it a fluke? Maybe. THR is quick to point out that the Olympics are not necessarily a surefire launchpad for continued ratings stability. NBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Games, for example, failed to infuse its subsequent fall schedule with much pizazz, resulting in the cancellation of enthusiastically-hyped shows like 'My Own Worst Enemy.' And after the NBC's recent mid-game fumble with 'The Tonight Show,' confidence in the Peacock is at an all-time-low, with every jaded journalist in the blogosphere waiting to see how the network plans to recover.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of five ways for NBC to maintain its momentum after the Olympic flame goes out.

1. Avoid Lenogate 2.0
You must've been living under a rock if you missed the primetime smackdown between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien that played out in every industry headline this winter, but now that Conan O'Brien has (somewhat) amicably parted ways with NBC and Jay Leno is back behind the 'Tonight Show' desk, the network is loudly trumpeting Leno's return. While the lingering scent of scandal almost guarantees a ratings bump for Leno's inaugural show, general consensus seemed to paint Leno and NBC as the villains of the piece, with public sympathy firmly on the side of Team Coco. Provided Leno isn't gloating too loudly when the 'Tonight Show' band starts back up on March 1, audiences will perhaps be compelled to forget why they declined to tune in to 'The Jay Leno Show' and started this kerfuffle in the first place. The network should tread lightly while the ink on O'Brien's severance package is still drying.

2. Give New Shows a Chance
NBC has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to canceling superb scripted shows too soon (yes, we're still mourning 'Kings'), and while it remains to be seen whether new drama 'Parenthood' will live up to the buzz NBC is generating, the credentials of all involved give us reason to be optimistic. Starring Lauren Graham and Peter Krause, with Oscar-winning executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer steering the ship and a script from 'Friday Night Lights' maestro Jason Katims, we're admittedly getting a little tingly with anticipation ourselves, though we think NBC needs to ease up on the promo overload. Fingers crossed that NBC allows the show to take root before rolling it out in front of the firing squad, should it under-perform in the ratings. Though with talent like that, why wouldn't you watch?

3. Rely on Reality
In addition to 'Parenthood,' the Peacock is pinning its hopes on new reality series like 'The Marriage Ref' to capitalize on its Olympics victory. A special preview of the show is set to air after the Winter Games Closing Ceremonies in an attempt to keep audiences captive after the telecast and pump up ratings. Reality stalwarts 'The Biggest Loser' and 'The Celebrity Apprentice' are also set to return at midseason, and NBC will surely be hoping that viewers are still just as enamored with hearing Donald Trump yell those two, delicious words at hapless apprentices as ever.

Friday Night Lights4. Friday Night's Alright For Fighting
Although we bashed NBC for its "when in doubt, toss it out" policy on show ratings, we've got to give the network props for sticking with our favorite prime time underdog, 'Friday Night Lights.' Where it will fall on NBC's schedule remains to be seen, but we'd love to see the Peacock finally throw its weight behind 'FNL,' which remains criminally under-watched in its penultimate fourth season (currently airing on DirecTV).

5. Make the Most of 10PM
Following Leno's exit from prime time and return to 'The Tonight Show,' an extra hour has opened up at 10PM, giving NBC scope to hone its new crop of scripted shows for the slot. Admittedly, if the network hadn't fooled around with a perfectly acceptable formula in the first place, a lot of controversy and hand-wringing could have been avoided, but as things stand, the Peacock needs to work on cultivating a solid prime-time lineup if it wants to maintain (or even someday improve on) its current third-place standing. The network currently has a number of promising pilots in line for the fall, and it would be great to see the NBC finally recapture the mantle of 'Must See TV' held by its Thursday-night schedule in the '90s.

Tell us: Do you think that NBC can hold on to third place without the Olympics? Will you be watching 'Parenthood,' 'The Marriage Ref' and 'Friday Night Lights'? Share your thoughts below!

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