It's that time of the four years again; starting tonight, the Summer Olympics will overtake primetime for the next seventeen nights. I'm going to take a quick look at the ratings from 2008 as a preview of sorts for this year's edition.
To sum it up in one sentence: there was a relatively consistent level around a 10.0 or so for the first nine days, and then a pretty consistent downhill slide over the next week through the end of competition.
I guess it's hard to say how much of the decline in the last week is the sports being offered and how much is a "viewer burnout" so to speak, but in looking at what aired on those nights it definitely seems like the most appealing stuff is front-loaded. Swimming superstar Michael Phelps' last gold medal came on day nine, the last day to hit double-digit demos, and the gymnastics were apparently done by day ten. The last week goes more to sports like volleyball and track that don't seem to capture the American imagination on quite the same level.
The highest-rated day in 2008 was day five, a Tuesday on which Phelps broke the all-time gold medal record (12.4 demo in primetime). The lowest-rated day was day 16, a Saturday and the last day of competition (5.1 demo in primetime). Beijing's Opening Ceremonies scored a 10.3 demo rating on August 8 and the Closing Ceremonies were about 20% behind that with an 8.2 on August 24.
I'm not enough of an Olympic nut to be able to offer any real predictions about what's gonna happen this year, though I'd certainly keep an eye out for the two races involving both Phelps and fellow American superstar Ryan Lochte. The first of those is tomorrow night (Saturday), the second on Thursday. Any other insight is welcome...!