SBD/August 1, 2012/Olympics

NBC's Olympic Primetime Remains On Pace For Best Viewership Ever

NBC is averaging an 18.9 final rating and 34.8 million viewers through the first four nights of the London Games, up 10% and 14%, respectively, from the same period during the '08 Beijing Games. The four-night rating is the best since the '96 Atlanta Games and the viewership remains the best average since the first televised Olympics in ’60. After initial reports of Monday night’s audience being down in overnight ratings, final figures showed the telecast was actually up compared to the same night in Beijing. Monday night on NBC from 8:00-11:23pm (all times ET) averaged an 18.0 rating and 31.6 million viewers, up 2% and 5%, respectively, from the same night in ’08. Strong numbers also continued for NBC’s other dayparts. Coverage on the net on Monday from 12:00-5:10pm drew a 6.2 rating and 9.0 million viewers, while 10:00am-12:00pm drew a 5.1 rating and 7.0 million viewers. Late-night recaps from 12:35-1:23am drew a 4.6 rating and 6.4 million viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

PRIMETIME OLYMPIC RATINGS
 
Day
London
Beijing
Athens
Sydney
Atlanta
Opening Ceremony
Fri.
21.0
18.6
14.6
16.2
23.6
Day 2
Sat.
15.8
13.9
11.8
13.1
17.2
Day 3
Sun.
19.8
18.1
15.4
14.6
22.9
Day 4
Mon.
18.0
17.6
16.6
13.8
22.9
4-Night Avg.
18.9
17.2
14.7
14.3
21.8
           

DAY FIVE OVERNIGHT: NBC drew a 24.0 overnight Nielsen rating for last night’s London Games coverage from 8:00-11:45pm ET, which featured U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps becoming the most-decorated Olympian ever after winning his 19th medal. While figures could shift when national ratings are released, that figure marks the net’s best audience for London thus far, just ahead of the Opening Ceremony (23.0 overnight). The 24.0 overnight is also up 4% from the same night in Beijing in ’08. Salt Lake City again topped all U.S. markets with a 31.3 local rating (Karp).

CABLE OPERATORS: The first weekend of Olympic coverage on NBC’s family of cable networks saw gains over Beijing and set some records. NBC Sports Network, airing Olympic coverage for the first time, had the net’s two most-viewed days in its history over on Saturday and Sunday. Coverage on Sunday from 4:00am-7:06pm averaged 1.2 million viewers, marking NBCSN’s best average audience for the daypart. Sunday coverage was highlighted by the U.S.-France men’s basketball game from 9:30-11:30am, which averaged 2.6 million viewers. MSNBC averaged 713,000 viewers over the weekend for coverage in the 7:00am-12:00pm window, up 46% from ’08. The net’s two-day average from 12:00-5:00pm was 1.5 million viewers, up 44%. CNBC also averaged 698,000 over the weekend, up 24% from Beijing (NBC). CABLEFAX DAILY notes Sunday's U.S.-Colombia women's soccer match on NBCSN averaged 2.5 million viewers to "rank as the net's most watched non-NHL coverage." Meanwhile, Bravo's first two days of tennis coverage "marked the net's highest weekend average viewership in the 9am-3pm daypart since October '07" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/1).

COULD NBC NOW BREAK EVEN? NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke today during a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss Comcast's Q2 earnings report said that NBC is “set to ‘break even’ on its Olympic coverage, rather than lose money as previously expected.” The company had “expected at one point to take a $200 million loss on the London Olympics.” NBC paid $1.2B for the rights to air the Games in the U.S. and said that it “sold more than $1 billion in ads, breaking the record of $850 million set during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.” Burke: “We are way ahead of where we thought we’d be.” He added that because of “the timing of events in London, he had expected ratings to be down 20 percent compared with the Beijing Olympics.” They currently are up 10% (Peter Svensson, AP, 8/1). Burke said that the “high ratings the Olympics were drawing were ‘atypical’ in the current fragmented media environment, making them increasingly valuable.” He added that the strong ratings "were a result of the company’s promotion and its strategy of presenting the Games on broadcast, cable and digital” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 8/1).

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik watched the two swimming finals yesterday involving Michael Phelps and wrote he was able to see both "in real time Tuesday -- sort of." He spent the morning "signing in and getting bounced offline repeatedly," followed by "long stretches looking at freeze frames instead of action while the little wheel on the screen went round and round in the afternoon." During the 200-meter freestyle relay, the feed "froze just before he was about to finish the race -- and when it finally unfroze, he and his teammates were starting to celebrate." Zurawik: "We only lost the stream once or twice Tuesday afternoon, but we had someone working the computer like a jazz musician lowering the resolution to save band width." It "almost worked -- some of the time." The live stream "was at its worst as Phelps swam the last legs of the relay that earned American gold." Most of the time "what we saw was a frozen frame with the wheel helplessly, maddeningly, stupidly spinning and spinning." Meanwhile, the announcers "sounded like the BBC or, perhaps, a feed from Australian TV that NBC just piggybacked into." Zurawik speculated NBC "didn't want the real-time live coverage Tuesday afternoon to be so good that viewers wouldn't tune in for the network's tricked-out prime-time package -- when viewer eyeballs could be monetized to the absolute max for advertisers." After Zurawik's column was first posted, NBC Sports Group Senior VP/Communication Greg Hughes "called from London to say that he believed the problems with the live stream experienced in the Sun conference room were the result of band width issues at the Sun, not the fault of NBC's live stream" (Baltimore SUN, 8/1). Meanwhile, in L.A., Salvador Rodriguez writes NBC's live stream of Olympic events "is not actually live." A delay "of at least a couple of seconds set up a spoiler in the outcome of Phelps' 200-meter butterfly race." With about 50 meters left in the race, the network "sent out an app notification with the outcome." Rodriguez: "I was still watching Phelps swim, supposedly 'live,' after a notification on my iPad had already told me the race's result." There is "nothing wrong with a slight delay," but the "problem lies in the fact that it's not just Twitter beating NBC's delay but NBC itself beating it" (L.A. TIMES, 8/1).

A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR ME: REUTERS’ Baker & Adegoke noted many viewers who are “turned off by NBC’s ironclad control of access to Olympics coverage ... and spotty online streaming" are using a "workaround -- sometimes legal, sometimes not -- to watch the Games when and how they want on feeds from countries such as the U.K. and Canada.” These fans “use techniques that make it seem like their computers are located outside the United States, giving them access to streaming access to the Games held by companies other than NBC.” It is “unclear whether NBC would take on the task of blocking or suing" these services, as the net typically has left it to the IOC "to police the piracy of the games’ TV rights” (REUTERS, 7/31).

LIVE FROM NEW YORK...: In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez notes NBCU has staffed "a temporary 670-employee center in New York dubbed the 'highlights factory.'" NBC has "crammed 11 portable play-by-play booths, a control room, and 50 flat-screen computer workstations" into the regular "SNL" studio. Not only do 125 employees "clip highlights on their workstations on the SNL stage and in the balcony seating area, but they manually insert advertisements into the live stream on nbcolympics.com." While the "big games and competitions are being called from London," the smaller competitions -- badminton, archery, handball, and others -- are "being called at 30 Rock" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/1).

VIDEO STILL TO COME: ABC's "World News" last night reported on Phelps' record-setting win but was unable to show highlights of the race. ABC's Bob Weir said, “The network that shall-not-be-named who paid over a billion dollars to broadcast these Games to the States ... are meager with doling out the highlights” (“World News,” ABC, 7/31).

THIS IS "TODAY"
: This morning’s “Today” show focused primarily on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team winning the Gold Medal for the first time in 16 years and Phelps becoming the most-decorated Olympian of all-time. The episode led with a short interview with all five members of the gymnastics team. Following a highlights package of yesterday’s action, the gymnasts sat for a live interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. The parents of each gymnast later were interviewed. The opening hour also featured live interviews with Gold Medal-winning swimmers Ricky Berens and Conor Dwyer and U.S. men’s basketball F Carmelo Anthony. Swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines and NBCOlympics.com’s Alan Abrahamson discussed the in-pool success of Phelps and Missy Franklin. The second hour included former Gold Medalists Carly Patterson and Mary Lou Retton discussing the women’s gymnastics team and a live interview with U.S. beach volleyball players Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. Men’s gymnast Danell Leyva also was profiled. The third hour included live interviews with gymnastics analysts Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel, Gold Medal-winning skeet shooter Vincent Hancock and Bronze Medal-winning swimmer Caitlin Leverenz. Profiles of women’s gymnast Gabby Douglas and Australian swimmer James Magnussen also aired (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, NBC London Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell, who is also the Exec Producer for "Today," refuted a N.Y. Daily News report that Hoda Kotb is in London to give the program a "ratings boost." Bell, speaking on SiriusXM Radio's "Mad Dog Radio," said, "Absolute nonsense. That's a garbage story. Anybody who watches the show knows that we've been running a thing with Kathie Lee and Hoda for weeks talking about why Hoda should go to the Olympics. So I have no idea. It was pathetic reporting" ("Mad Dog Radio," SiriusXM, 7/31).

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