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NBC reports Olympic gold

NEW YORK -- Besides being a ratings success on their own, NBC said yesterday, the Olympics have had a "halo effect" of boosting viewership for NBC's cable networks and programs. CNBC, MSNBC, USA, and Bravo reported that 62 million people tuned in at some point during the first 11 days of the Olympics, compared with the 38 million viewers for the same 11 days of a month earlier, Nielsen Media Research said.

CNBC has averaged 602,000 viewers a night for its boxing coverage, shown between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The audience for the business-oriented network's regular programming a month earlier in those hours amounted to an average of 34,000 people.

"Our plan worked," said Randy Falco, president of the NBC Universal Television Group. "The strategy coming into the Games was to use all of our platforms to aggregate the largest possible audience and then to promote across all platforms."

One fear of NBC executives was that all the Olympic coverage on cable might lessen the appetite for NBC's prime-time telecast, but that proved not to be the case.

"We're in the viewership business -- that's what we sell -- and we succeeded in increasing our viewership across the platforms," Falco said.

NBC, which had estimated a profit of $50 million before the Games, now says it will make $60 million to $70 million. The high ratings have enabled the network to sell more commercial time.

MSNBC and CNBC have both been largely unsuccessful in attracting viewers over the past few years.

For NBC, boosts from Olympics coverage in Sydney and Salt Lake City proved to be short-lived.

With CNBC in particular, the gulf between boxing- and business-obsessed audiences would seem to be wide. But during boxing, it has relentlessly promoted its new prime-time talk show with John McEnroe, and it is hoping that at least some of the new viewers check it out.

Having the Olympics may also help persuade cable system operators to carry Bravo when they've resisted in the past, NBC said.

On MSNBC, "The Abrams Report" had 21 percent more viewers during the first week of the Olympics than it had the previous week, Nielsen said. "Hardball" has benefited as well.

USA's "Monk," which was also promoted heavily during the Games, saw its summer finale ratings increase by 21 percent over last year, Nielsen said.

News programs also basked in the glow: "Nightly News" had its widest lead in viewers over ABC's "World News Tonight" in a year, and the "Today" show, with hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer in Athens, had its largest lead over "Good Morning America" in four years.

NBC also said ratings for its late local news programs were up in 13 of the 14 stations owned by the network.

Kilborn takes bow from his late show

Craig Kilborn will say goodbye to late-night TV with some of the folks who provided clip-worthy material on "The Late Late Show."

Kilborn's farewell show will air tonight. "The Late Late Show" is going into reruns for three weeks; it will return in mid-September with a roster of yet-to-be-named guest hosts.

"Elf" and "Anchorman" star Will Ferrell, actor Vince Vaughn -- whose name is often mentioned as a potential guest host -- and actress Marlee Matlin will be among Kilborn's final guests. Former Batman Adam West and Martin Mull will also join Kilborn, as will entertainer Wayne Newton, via satellite from Las Vegas.

Tonight's show will include highlights from Kilborn's five years on "The Late Late Show," which he took over after Tom Snyder left in 1999.

Kilborn announced this month that he was not asking for a contract renewal from CBS and Worldwide Pants, which produces the show. His departure came as something of a surprise, leading to the scramble for guest hosts.

ZAP2IT.COM

Boston is gaining in a market race

It may not make Mayor Menino's State of the City address, but according to Nielsen Media Research, Boston has reached a major milestone. Based on information from various sources including the US Census Bureau, Nielsen has reported that the Boston television market has moved up a notch, from the sixth-largest to fifth-largest in the nation. With 2,391,840 television homes -- representing almost 2.2 percent of the total US television households -- the Boston area slipped past the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market to move into fifth place.

The 10 largest TV markets in the country, according to the Nielsen estimates, which will be used for the 2004-2005 television seasons, are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Detroit. For the record, the smallest market on the Nielsen list, Glendive, Mont., has 5,150 television homes.

MARK JURKOWITZ

Channel 25 to add to its news shows

Less than two weeks after unveiling a new Sunday morning news show to debut on Sept. 12, WFXT-TV (Channel 25) has announced that it will add a 5:30 p.m. newscast to its daily lineup on Sept. 13. That program, to follow the daily 5 p.m. newscast, will be anchored by David Wade and Maria Stephanos on Monday through Thursday. On Friday, it will be anchored by Bianca de la Garza and Dan Jaehnig.

The station's news director, Lisa Graham, said in a statement that "adding a 5:30 p.m. newscast is a natural step for Fox25 and is reflective of our plans to continue to provide New Englanders with more local news."

MARK JURKOWITZ

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