IN FEBRUARY 2006, in the true spirit of Olympic competition, rival networks threw all kinds of original programming at NBC's coverage of the Turin Winter Games. Thanks in part to Fox's American Idol and ABC's Dancing with the Stars, NBC's prime-time coverage raked in a paltry 12.2 rating, down 25% from Nagano's 16.3.
This summer, though, is shaping up more like a Redeem Team walkover, as several network reps told SI they weren't aggressively counter-programming against the Games. "Most everything is standard," says Scott Grogin, senior VP of corporate communications for Fox. "You're talking about the Summer Olympics, so it's the time of the year when networks are not running first-run programming anyway." Fox made the biggest push, rerunning the first six episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles through the first week. ABC re-ran Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds against the opening ceremonies last Friday, but Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning (below) didn't stop 34.2 million people from tuning in to the festivities from Beijing. That's the biggest audience ever for an overseas Olympics opener—and it's 2.5 million more viewers than tuned in last May for the summer's biggest TV event, the American Idol finale. Take that, Seacrest.
AL TIELEMANS (OPENING CEREMONY)
NO CONTEST NBC's ceremony broadcast drew a record audience.
PARAMOUNT PICTURES/PHOTOFEST (WAR OF THE WORLDS)