Universal McCann Study: Controversy Draws Younger Olympic Viewers

LOS ANGELES–The controversy over pairs ice-skating at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City has increased already intense interest among TV viewers, but especially among younger watchers, a key target for the Olympics in 2002, according to an online study conducted by Interpublic Group of Cos. media network Universal McCann. The research found that 13 percent of viewers aged 13-24 intended to watch more of the Games because of the controversy, in which two gold medals were awarded, to the Russians and the Canadians, after questions were raised about judging bias that initially gave the gold only to the Russians. By contrast, only 6 percent of total respondents said they were more interested in the Games as a result of the controversy.

However, the study, which polled 600 people across the country, also revealed that younger viewers’ overall interest still trails older viewers overall, despite intense marketing efforts by Olympics sponsors and NBC to woo the youthful demographics. For example, 74 percent of total respondents who watch the Games reported tuning in daily and more than 50 percent reported viewing more than an hour each day, while only 54 percent of 13-24 year-old Olympic viewers watched daily, and two-thirds watched less than an hour per day. Nevertheless, youth-oriented snowboarding was a hit among young Olympic fans, with the 13-24 demo 33 percent more interested in that competition than Olympic viewers aged 25 and older.