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No Sochi Problem for Cable Networks

NBC’s ratings record-setting early coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics hasn’t stopped several cable shows from posting big viewership performances.

Cable shows such as ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta and VH1’s Love & Hip Hop skated to ratings records last Sunday and Monday night despite going head-to-head with NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage.

Typically, cable networks will air reruns and other non-original programming against big events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, which tend to draw huge viewership numbers mostly from casual viewers that typically watch scheduled series.

On Feb. 9, NBC’s Sunday-night Olympics coverage scored a big 14.4 household rating and 26.4 million viewers, nearly even with the record-setting 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, NBC said.

Yet NBC’s numbers did not devour audiences for AMC’s The Walking Dead’s Feb. 9 season- four midseason premiere, which drew 15.8 million viewers — slightly behind the 16.1 million for the show’s season premiere in October, AMC said.

Also on Feb. 9, Bravo set a series ratings record for Real Housewives of Atlanta, drawing 4.6 million total viewers and 2.6 million adult 18-49 viewers. The numbers were up 18% over the previous week, despite going head-to-head against the Olympics, according to the network.

Last Monday night (Feb. 10), NBC drew 22.4 million viewers in primetime — 27% higher than the combined primetime totals of ABC, CBS and Fox, NBCUniversal said — but the action from Sochi didn’t quell viewer enthusiasm for ABC Family’s drama series Switched at Birth. The show’s Feb. 10 episode set a high-viewership mark among its core adult 18-49 audience (974,000) while drawing 1.7 million total viewers, network officials said.

Fans of VH1’s reality series Love & Hip Hop also watched in record numbers, posting a series-high 2.3 million viewers in the 18-49 demo and 3.5 million total viewers. USA Network’s juggernaut WWE Monday Night Raw posted week-to-week viewership gains, averaging 4.3 million viewers throughout the threehour telecast, according to Nielsen.

“What you have on cable is a devoted viewership — superfans of particular shows that are going to seek out those shows regardless of what else is on TV — and that’s showing up in the ratings,” Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for ad agency Katz Media Group, said. “What it underscores is that viewers will always take part in watching event programming, but additionally folks will want to watch their favorite shows and be a part of that discussion as well.”

After the Olympics, FX will premiere new episodes of The Americans on Feb. 26; History will debut the second season of The Vikings on Feb. 27; and TNT’s Dallas will return on Feb. 24.

TAKEAWAY

Casual interest in the Sochi Winter Olympics isn’t causing diehard viewers to turn away from their favorite cable series.