By ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun
They're just numbers, and you can look at them any way you want.
But CBC sees early audience figures for its Sydney Olympics coverage as merely a starting point for even better things to come.
Prime-time audiences for the first three nights of the Down Under Games have ranged from 1.521 to 1.591 million. Yes, it's less than, say, the 1.8 million or so the first few days of the 1998 Nagano Winter Games pulled in. But February is considered a peak time of the year for TV viewership, and the Winter Olympics includes such glamour television sports as hockey and figure skating.
Outside of triathlon finals Friday and Saturday night, CBC hasn't had a lot of big-ticket live material to show viewers just yet.
"We are very satisfied with the preliminary numbers so far," said Nancy Lee, CBC Sports' executive director. "With more event finals taking place over the next 12 days, we are looking forward to an increase in the audience numbers."
What Lee and Co. should be most encouraged with are the numbers earlier in the day. Like, for example, the 911,000 tuned in Sunday between 9-11 a.m. Or the 956,000 who were glued to the TV sets from 11 p.m.-3 a.m. late Saturday.
Viewership between 3-6 a.m. -- when a lot of the big finals in sports such as swimming are scheduled -- wasn't any better than 218,000. But that's still a decent number of Canadians hanging in there later than you might think.
THE OVERNIGHT SHIFT:
CBC gave viewers a glimpse of one of those special Olympic moments in the wee hours. Eric Moussambani, a swimmer from tiny Equatorial Guinea who only took up the sport in January, was forced to swim alone in a 100-metre freestyle heat because two others had been disqualified. He turned in a time nearly 50 seconds slower than anyone else. The magic of it all? Hearing the crowd give the swimmer a standing ovation as he struggled through his final few strokes. That's what it's all about, folks. That's why we watch ... Undercover stuff: CBC cameras catching a U.S. boxing official illegally signalling scores to his fighter's corner. Naughty, naughty ... Among our favourite rookie Olympic analysts: Lori Strong-Ballard, who's brought plenty of keen insight to CBC's gymnastics coverage.
DOWN UNDAH TALK:
Canadian Olympic rowing star Marnie McBean was hardly impressed by a suggestion by CBC Newsworld's Colleen Jones that embattled equestrian rider Eric Lamaze had taken cocaine "innocently." Said McBean, a three-time Olympic gold medallist: "All I'm going to do to respond to that is roll my eyes." ... CBC was flooded with calls and e-mails yesterday regarding Brian Williams' tough interview with Lamaze on Monday night. About half the respondents supported Williams' no-nonsense approach.
"We've set a standard. (Canada's young sprinters) understand the days of making the Olympic team ... as a sprinter just to get a uniform -- that's 10 years in the past now." -- Canada's Donovan Bailey, in an interview with CTV Sportsnet's Gerry Dobson.