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Ladies: Grab those clickers!!! (And don’t let go)

February 25, 2010 – 5:51 AM

By Laura Pappano

I may never (hopefully) hurl down an icy track on a sled at 90-plus mph, but the Olympic spirit does stir a passion for competition. Yesterday, a 63-year-old woman offered to me that she has been absolutely glued to Olympic TV coverage and found snowboard cross riveting. “I don’t snowboard, but it is so exciting to watch,” she said. (For the record, she has windsurfed).

This woman (and yes, she’s a grandmom) is certainly not the sports demographic that pops to mind. Nor is she the gaga-for-ice-danging type. We’ve heard plenty recently (if you listen to guys on sports radio, that is) talking down the Olympics as women’s sport coverage, all softened up with lots of human-interest features. Guys like their sports straight up, right? (Oh, except for the pre-game, half-time, and post-game wrap-ups, that is…)

The Olympics has made it clear — in perhaps the most dramatic fashion yet — that women are perfectly passionate watchers of sports on TV.

NBC has hit the jackpot in ratings, with the most startling news, of course, being that last week Olympic coverage (including the delayed broadcast of Lindsey Vonn’s gold medal run) beat American Idol in the ratings race, marking the first time the show had lost in its time slot since 2004.

As one writer, Daniel Fienberg pointed out, the Olympics didn’t just win, they “utterly crushed” American Idol — 30.07 million viewers to 18.42 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

There are two key messages here:

One for women: Grab the clicker! See the power you wield when you tune in en masse and watch sports. Being a fan is about exercising economic, political, and social influence. (While we’re at it, the women’s Olympic ice hockey gold medal game—US v. Canada – is tonight, 7:30. Tune in.).

The second for TV execs: Women LIKE TO WATCH sports!!! Don’t wait four more years for the Olympics, do what makes snowboard cross compelling for a 63-year-old woman and pull her in for, say, the NCAA March Madness tourney. Scheduling women’s basketball on weekdays at noon on cable does nothing except allow you to say you are broadcasting women’s college games. Honestly, the NCAA playoffs start soon, and American Idol is looking vulnerable…

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