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TV Bulletin Board (Wed., Feb. 17) -- NBC on ratings high with Winter Games

A lot of it's been downhill, but certainly not in the national ratings.

Audiences for the first four nights of NBC's winter Olympics games from Vancouver are up 25 percent from the 2006 edition held in Torino, Italy.

The Peacock so far is averaging 27.9 viewers in prime-time, compared to 22.4 for the tape-delayed Olympics of four years ago. NBC says it's the highest Winter Games average since the "tabloid-fueled" 1994 Lillehammer games, which were awash in the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal. Lillehammer drew an average of 37.4 million viewers for the first four nights.

Even so, NBC has projected it will lose $200 million on the Vancouver Olympics, largely due to inflated rights fees and a subsequent sluggish economy. But the live aspect of the ongoing Olympics -- and the resultant audience increases -- could well shave those losses.

Over the first four days, the Olympics so far are the most popular in Milwaukee among Nielsen's metered markets. Of Texas cities, only Austin is in the top 25, sharing 16th place with Providence, R.I. and Fort Myers, Fla.

***The CW has renewed five series for next fall, including its freshman drama, The Vampire Diaries. Also getting early pickups are America's Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, Supernatural and 90210.

***Comedian/actor Kevin James has signed on to get slimed as host of Nickelodeon's 23rd annual Kids' Choice Awards. The Paul Blart: Mall Cop star will preside over the March 27th live telecast.