Call it the Kimmie Factor, because no one has a better explanation for what happened Tuesday in the ratings battle between NBC's Winter Olympics and Fox's American Idol except the presence of 16-year-old skater Kimmie Meissner of Bel Air.
While Idol extended its dominance over the Winter Games nationally, whipping the heavily publicized women's figure skating coverage by about 6.6 rating points (7.2 million viewers) from 8 to 10 Tuesday night, the pattern was reversed in the Baltimore area, where the skaters topped Idol by 4.3 rating points (about 46,000 TV households).
"Thanks to Kimmie Meissner," said Michelle Butt, news director of WBAL (Channel 11), the NBC affiliate. "Baltimore clearly responded to Kimmie skating her little heart out right to a fifth-place finish."
Baltimore, ranked 18th nationally in viewership of the Olympics through Monday's telecast, jumped to third place - behind Salt Lake City and Seattle - in percentage of households tuned to the women's short program. From 8 to 11:39 Tuesday night, one out of every four homes in the Baltimore TV market of 1.089 million households was watching the Olympics.
Even though Tuesday was the highest rated night of the Olympics, Idol still managed to more than double NBC's audience nationally in the coveted audience of 18-to-49-year-old viewers.
(Since Baltimore is not a metered market, overnight figures measure only households, while national Nielsen ratings measure viewers.)