By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Feb 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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Grumble all you want about how there aren't enough live events, there's too much ice dancing and you can't find the hockey over on MSNBC.

But the proof is in the ratings and NBC has done just about the best they could to package the Vancouver games. 

NBC's nightly crowd has averaged 25.2 million viewers through the first 12 nights of the games, drawing "American Idol"-size crowds and even actually handing Fox's "Idol" its first ratings loss in six years. That, alone, is an accomplishment in these days of diffused audiences.

It's an accomplishment that proves NBC's mix of live and packaged coverage is effective in drawing an audience. Lovers of specific sports don't necessarily like it. But the network's coverage is aimed at a broad audience.

This is broadcasting, after all.  

Among the grumbles I've heard about from readers is the airing of Sunday night's U.S. hockey win over Canada in prime time. The game ran live in its entirety on NBC's cable sister channel MSNBC, with the final moments popping up on NBC.

Not everybody who has MSNBC has it in high-definition. 

But balancing that against the fact that a live hockey game would have been a Sunday night ratings killer, NBC made the smart decision. The move gave MSNBC its third highest ratings ever, with more than 8 million people watching the game.

We're likely to be grumbling again in two years when the summer games come to us from London via NBC. But the grumbling only works if it has an effect on the ratings, and that doesn't seem likely.

Milwaukee's numbers: Brew City has slipped out of first place in Olympics viewership. For the first 12 nights, Milwaukee had the third-best ratings among 55 metered markets.

Salt Lake City was first, followed by Denver. Third-place Milwaukee was followed by Seattle and Minneapolis.

Milwaukee was in sixth place on Tuesday night, behind Salt Lake City, Denver, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Seattle. Some 155,000 southeast Wisconsin households, a 27 percent share of TV homes watching television at that time.

Some things are live: For hockey fans, Friday's U.S.-Finland semifinal will air live at 2 p.m. Friday on Channel 4. Personally, I'm waiting for tomorrow's other semifinal, Slovakia versus Canada, live at 8 p.m. on CNBC.

Go Slovakia!

The winners are: WYMS-M (88.9) announces the winners of its third annual Milwaukee Music Awards on the air from 4 to 6 p.m.

That's followed at 8 p.m. with a party/networking session at Whiskey Bar, 788 N. Jackson St., in Downtown Milwaukee.

On TV: CBS talker David Letterman was supposed to take next week off,  but Monday's premiere of Jay Leno's second stint as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" means Dave will be airing first-run shows instead.

  • Meanwhile, Leno has added Brett Favre to his first-week guest list. Old No. 4 is due on the March 4 show.
  • And Conan O'Brien has enough spare time these days to launch a Twitter account. His first tweet on Wednesday: "Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me."
  • NBC has a new "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, with Jennifer Lopez making her second appearance as both host and musical guest.
  • Production of CBS' "Two and a Half Men" is on hold while troubled star Charlie Sheen is in rehab.

Tom Snyder inspires Craig Ferguson: Milwaukee-trained broadcaster Tom Snyder died in 2007, but he's still inspiring his successors, including Craig Ferguson, who holds his old post-Letterman CBS slot at 11:35 weeknights on Channel 58.

The classy Ferguson did his Tuesday night show without an audience, citing his predecessor as the inspiration for the experiment.

Here's his opening:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.