Olympics boost NBC’s ratings

The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games thrust NBC ahead of Fox in the February sweeps race.

According to Nielsen Media Research, NBC now leads the four-week ratings period in adults 18-49 and total viewers. Fox, which got off to a head start after airing the Super Bowl, remains the leader in adults 18-34, Variety reports.

On Friday, 45.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the opening ceremonies, and through Sunday, the Winter Olympics averaged 35.1 million viewers. That’s 23 percent higher than the first three nights of the Nagano Olympics.

The network has now won eight consecutive nights in adults 18-49.

Matt Damon‘s guest appearance on Thursday’s Will & Grace and Niles’ proposal to Daphne on Tuesday’s Frasier both helped bolster NBC’s place in the ratings, as did the network’s Monday lineup which features Fear Factor, Third Watch and Crossing Jordan.

Fox finished in second in adults 18-49 and 18-34, led by The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, That ’70s Show and Bernie Mac. CBS followed in adults 25-54 with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Everybody Loves Raymond while ABC finished fourth in adults 18-49, led by My Wife and Kids.

For the week of Feb. 4-10, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings were: Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony NBC, 25.5; Friends, NBC, 17.8; ER, NBC, 17.6; Winter Olympics (Sunday), NBC, 17.6; Friends special, NBC, 17.2; Winter Olympics (Saturday) NBC, 17.1; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 15.8; Will & Grace, NBC, 15.5; Everybody Loves Raymond , CBS, 13.5; Law and Order, NBC, 12.6.

A ratings point represents 1,055,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 105.5 million homes with TVs.