Can NBC Get Its Fall Shows Into The Olympic Spotlight?

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With the Olympics drawing to a close, NBC is looking especially golden. They have had two weeks of great ratings — including record highs. What better time than on the eve of the network's new fall season to rack up two weeks of record audiences? But what might seem a slam dunk for the network is anything but.

Sure, you may be spending a lot of time with NBC this summer. But they'd like you to start thinking about the fall, too. That's why what seems like every third commercial during the Olympics is for the network's own shows. Animal Practice, Go On, Chicago Fire ... they're all on NBC's fall schedule, and you may feel like you're hearing about them — complete with lame sports metaphors — as much as you're hearing about gymnastics and track.

But the network isn't stopping at mere promotion; they're airing entire episodes of select shows after primetime coverage of the competition. Some will even start their seasons right after the closing ceremonies.

You may ask yourself: If the Olympic Games are such a powerful viewer magnet, why not schedule all the fall shows to start right after they end?

The answer: Because it almost never works. NBC has tried again and again over the years to use the Olympics as a launch pad for other programming. But do you remember Father Of The Pride in 2004? Or Conviction in 2006? Didn't think so. Both are examples of shows that failed to take off after being heavily promoted during Olympic coverage.

There are a number of theories as to why it doesn't work. First, there's the distinct possibility that none of the shows NBC has tried to launch out of the Olympics were all that good. Or maybe it's the fact that the Olympics provide what NBC's rivals dismiss as a "rented audience," meaning they're the kinds of viewers who flock to the Olympics but aren't interested in much else.

If that isn't enough, keep in mind that August is a notoriously tough month to launch new shows in any year, Olympic or not. Long summer days keep viewers outdoors — and off couches — later.

ABC discovered in 2000 withWho Wants To Be A Millionaire? that it isn't quite impossible to launch a huge hit this time of year. And with that tantalizing taste of possibility hanging out there, NBC can't just hang an "Out To Lunch" sign until September. But if history is any indication, even the Olympic torch won't make these shows catch fire.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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