SBD/August 3, 2012/Olympics

NBC's Six-Night Average Still Seeing Double-Digit Percentage Jump From Beijing

NBC is averaging a 19.3 final rating and 34.8 million viewers for six nights of primetime London Olympic coverage, up 10% and 13%, respectively, from the same period during Beijing in ’08. Each of the first six nights during London has seen an increase compared to the corresponding night in Beijing. Coverage on Wednesday night from 8:00-11:26pm ET finished with a 17.9 rating and 30.8 million viewers, up 7% and 11%, respectively, from a 16.7 rating and 27.7 million viewers in Beijing. Wednesday night’s coverage featured the U.S. winning two more swimming Gold Medals, as well as U.S. gymnast Dannel Leyva getting a Bronze Medal in the men’s all-around (NBC).

Opening Ceremony
Night 2
Night 3
Night 4
Night 5
Night 6
6-Night Avg.

THE GIFT OF GABBY: NBC earned a 23.1 overnight rating for last night’s taped primetime Olympic coverage, which featured U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas winning the women’s all-around Gold Medal and U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps edging out Ryan Lochte for a Gold Medal in the 200-meter IM. While ratings are subject to change when the national figures are released, that overnight is the second best for the London Games to date and up 10% compared to the same night during the Beijing Games in ’08. Salt Lake City again topped all U.S. markets with a 29.9 local rating, while Douglas’ home market of Norfolk finished third with a 29.9 rating.

: NBC Sports Network averaged 2.5 million viewers for the first two U.S. men's basketball games against France and Tunisia. That figure is up 70% compared to the four-game average on USA Network during the ’08 Beijing Games. Meanwhile, NBCSN averaged 1.5 million viewers through the first two U.S. women’s basketball games, up 52% compared to USA Network in ’08. The women’s squad also averaged 11.4 million viewers on NBC for its game against Tunisia last Saturday, up 96% compared to the squad’s two-game average on NBC in ’08 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

UNEXPECTED SUCCESS: NBC Sports Group President Mark Lazarus on a conference call with reporters Thursday said the net is “over delivering” on every platform -- TV, online and mobile -- through the first six days of the London Games. The strong audience has led NBC to be able to sell ads it held back in the event of needing to make-good with advertisers. Although ratings have been strong, Lazarus doesn’t “expect it to necessarily continue every night.” NBC execs predicted archery could be the breakout sport of the Games on the heels of “The Hunger Games” books and film, and it has exceeded expectations. NBC Research President Alan Wurtzel revealed archery has been the most popular Olympic offering on cable. He said, “Archery is the new curling. The numbers for archery have been nothing less than huge. It delivered an average of 1.5 million viewers, the highest-rated cable sport, beating out basketball.” Wurtzel said Nielsen research showed the teenage audience has increased 28% overall, with teen girls up 52% and teen boys up 7%. Among kids aged 2-11, viewership is up 33%. Wurtzel said, “We’re cultivating the next Olympic generation” (Joe Perez, THE DAILY).

TUNING OUT THE CRITICISM: Lazarus continues to deflect criticism of NBC’s use of tape-delay broadcasts for high-interest events, saving them for primetime viewing. He said, "The overwhelming majority of people are voting with their clicker and their mouses and their fingertips on every device, saying, 'We're with you, we're enjoying what you're doing, thank you, please continue.” He added, "We listen, we read, we understand that there are people who don't like what we're doing. We think that's a very loud minority, and the silent majority has been with us the first six days” (Perez). In California, Jim Carlisle writes, “If ESPN had these Games, I would submit to you that it would still be showing a delayed prime-time show every night.” It might air on ABC, but it “would still happen because after all these years ... this is what viewers have come to expect.” Not only that, it is “what they want” (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 8/3). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth noted the “original tsunami of Twitter criticism" concerning NBC's tape-delayed coverage seems to have "dried up and redirected itself to something else glittery and shiny.” The reality is that NBC’s numbers have “muffled the 140-character gripefest.” If it seems to be a “cause-and-effect relationship, it’s effectively a lost cause because it hasn’t affected NBC’s bottom line” (, 8/2). In Boston, Chad Finn notes until Twitter “grows more mainstream, or until viewers send NBC the ultimate message by turning off their televisions and computers, the reality is that a supposed tipping point is not nearly as close as it appeared a few days ago” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/3).

SELLING THE DRAMA? In London, Guy Adams, whose Twitter account was briefly suspended earlier in the week, noted NBC was “accused of deliberately editing footage of the women’s team gymnastics in order to create what critics called ‘fake suspense.’” Russian gymnast Ksenia Afanasyeva's fall during the floor exercise Tuesday during team finals, which “effectively handed a gold medal to Team USA during an early stage of the contest, was inexplicably removed from the time-delayed version of events that NBC presented to its prime-time television viewers.” NBC “instead cut to footage of its home team’s floor rotation.” Although the event was “essentially over as a meaningful contest, commentator Al Trautwig attempted to stoke viewer enthusiasm by wondering if the US: ‘can deliver a knockout blow’” (London INDEPENDENT, 8/2).

NBC is weaving athletes' parents, like Lynn and
Rich Raisman, into Olympic broadcasts 

PARENTAL CONTROL The AP’s David Bauder notes NBC “doesn't have ‘parent cams’ trained on the stands during every Olympic event,” but parents already have been “indelible parts of the network's coverage in the first few days of the London Games.” Video of Lynn Raisman, mother of U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman, was the “single most replayed moment on Tivo digital video recorders" last Sunday and has even “inspired a YouTube spoof.” Cameras also caught Debbie Phelps, the mother of Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps, in a “double-take” at the conclusion of the 200-meter butterfly. She thought it was “another gold medal before learning her son had been beaten in the end.” NBC Olympics Coordinating Producer Molly Solomon said that parents are “featured only when they are relevant to the story lines.” Solomon: “If they don’t want to be on camera, we are respectful of that” (AP, 8/3). The L.A. DAILY NEWS' Hoffarth writes NBC has "seemingly become ‘Parenthood’ obsessed since it was fortunate to capture a humorous moment on Sunday night -- the writhing agony of Rich and Lynn Raisman watching daughter Aly on the uneven bars.” Once that clip went viral, NBC “has been trying too hard to replicate it” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/3). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "Allison Schmitt has raced in four races and got two Golds, a Silver and a Bronze. She never finished out of the money, and Phelps’ mom has been on TV more than her” (“PTI,” ESPN, 8/2).

WEB ISSUES: One hiccup on the digital side of NBC's coverage has been with viewers directed to the NBCOlympic website via Twitter to watch live events. Many viewers are experiencing pre-roll footage prior to seeing their desired event. When the footage concludes, a portion of the programming has been missed. “We’re learning as we go here,” Lazarus said. “We’re not trying to put you in a position where you are missing something that you are coming for. We can ‘early up’ our tweets maybe to get people there early so we don’t put you in a position where you are going to miss something. This is part of our grand lab of learning. It’s a little bit of a learn-as-you-go, especially with these new technologies. We are committed to making it a better experience every day” (Perez). The VENTURA COUNTY STAR's Carlisle writes, “What's been particularly annoying is when you go to a short event, such as a swimming race, especially if has sent you an alert that it's about to begin, only to have an ad run when you first launch the player. It's possible to miss the whole event while waiting for the ad to finish” (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 8/3). In Jacksonville, Francine King noted, “First, instead of showing the gymnastics all-around finals live at 11:30 a.m. on one of its many channels, NBC forces me to watch a live feed on my computer. ... Then every 2-3 minutes, a 15- or 30-second commercial cuts into the live feed.” King added, “With all the down time in gymnastics, you’re telling me they can’t time the commercials between routines. Oh no, that would be too much trouble” (, 8/2).

GLOOMY BROADCAST: In London, Hannah Furness notes the BBC has “faced criticism” of its Olympic coverage, with viewers “complaining their post-event interviews are miserable, depressing and making silver medal winners ‘feel like losers.’” Viewers have “condemned some broadcasters for focusing on gold medals to the detriment of everything else, criticising them for making medal winners ‘feel bad about their achievements’” (London TELEGRAPH, 8/3).

THIS IS "TODAY": Douglas’ win dominated the tone of “Today’s” Olympic coverage Friday. She was interviewed live twice -- once during the opening segment of the program and again later in the second hour with fellow American all-around Gold Medalists MARY LOU RETTON, CARLY PATTERSON and NASTIA LIUKIN. In addition to the Douglas interview, the first hour contained live interviews with Raisman, swimmers Lochte and TYLER CLARY and U.K. Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON. A taped interview with Clary and fellow Gold Medal-winning swimmer REBECCA SONI aired, as did a taped segment on South African runner OSCAR PISTORIUS, who has two prosthetic legs. The second hour previewed the Olympic track & field competition, which began Friday, with a taped report on Jamaican sprinter USAIN BOLT. The Gold Medal-winning team from women’s eight rowing was interviewed live. Gold Medal-winning judoka KAYLA HARRISON, the first American to win the Gold Medal in judo, was interviewed live in the third hour. The show also aired taped reports on female boxer QUEEN UNDERWOOD and athletes competing for Somalia (THE DAILY).
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