I'm not sure NBC is very psyched for the Winter Olympics. They've already announced they're likely to lose $250 million on the Vancouver games. How much "lower than expected ratings" factored into NBC's estimate I'm not sure, but I'd guess it's in there. When you're setting expectations that you're going to lose a big wad of cash no need to hold back.
NBC's apparent best-shot at recapturing anything like the Michael Phelps magic of the summer games was probably Lindsey Vonn. She wasn't going to win 7 gold medals, but she's beautiful and talented enough to capture the hearts and minds of the American public. Then she hurt her shin. Apparently very badly. ESPN did some Mr. Wizard style science explanation of the G-forces a downhill skier experiences. Its conclusion was that the margin of victory in the races was usually so small and the G-forces so great that unless you are close to 100 percent you don't have a shot at winning the race.
Making matters worse is I don’t think anybody knows any of the female figure skaters. It could be that is very different after the games than before, but the female skaters have usually been the stars and I don’t know who any of them are. It doesn’t appear there is a Peggy Fleming or a Dorothy Hamill on the horizon. No Kristi Yamaguchi, no Nancy Kerrigan not even a Tara Lipinski or Michelle Kwan. It’s not the first time I remember there being a dearth for the US when it comes to female figure skater. But usually then there’s a foreign star like Katarina Witt to fill the void.
Anyway, I’m guessing NBC has a lot of that already figured into its losses. Still NBC is hopping for 200 million total cumulative (people who watch at least a bit of the games). By that metric, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing drew 215 million. The Lillehammer games in 1994 (Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding) had 204 million cumulative unique viewers.
I'm kind of psyched for the games anyway, just not all that psyched in terms of interest in Olympic's ratings. Sometimes things are inversely proportional and interest in ratings are one of them. On averaged, 50 million could tune in for tonight's opening ceremonies and there will be less interest in its ratings than an episode of Heroes that averages less than five million viewers!