SBD/August 14, 2012/Olympics

NBC Wraps Up London Games With Best Olympic Audience Since '96 Atlanta Games

NBC finished with a 17.5 rating and 31.1 million viewers for its 17 nights of taped London Games coverage, marking the best audience for the Summer Olympics since the ’96 Atlanta Games. The 17-night average was up 8% and 12%, respectively, from a 16.2 rating and 27.7 million viewers during the '08 Beijing Games. In terms of total viewership across NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo, the London Games drew 219.4 million viewers, up from 215 million four years ago and marking a record for a U.S. TV event. London also marked NBC’s best Olympics in terms of margin of victory over the other three major broadcast TV nets (dating back the the '88 Calgary Winter Games). Sunday night’s Closing Ceremony averaged a 17.0 rating and 31.0 million viewers, up 10% and 12%, respectively, from Beijing.

PRIMETIME OLYMPIC RATINGS
 
Day
London
Beijing
Athens
Sydney
Atlanta
Opening Ceremony
Fri.
21.0
18.8
14.6
16.2
23.6
Night 2
Sat.
15.8
13.9
11.8
13.1
17.2
Night 3
Sun.
19.8
18.1
15.4
14.6
22.9
Night 4
Mon.
18.0
17.6
16.6
13.8
22.9
Night 5
Tues.
21.8
20.0
18.3
15.5
27.2
Night 6
Wed.
17.9
16.7
17.3
14.6
22.4
Night 7
Thurs.
21.1
17.9
19.3
14.9
26.8
Night 8
Fri.
16.2
15.2
14.4
14.9
17.9
Night 9
Sat.
15.9
17.6
13.6
13.3
19.4
Night 10
Sun.
17.5
16.0
15.8
16.0
23.4
Night 11
Mon.
15.8
15.8
16.4
15.8
26.4
Night 12
Tues.
17.6
16.3
15.7
12.4
21.3
Night 13
Wed.
16.8
15.2
15.3
13.9
19.8
Night 14
Thurs.
13.6
13.8
13.8
14.0
20.7
Night 15
Fri.
13.2
10.5
12.5
10.6
16.1
Night 16
Sat.
12.6
10.2
11.1
10.5
15.8
Closing Ceremony
Sun.
17.0
15.5
11.9
10.8
21.8
17-Night Avg.
17.5
16.2
15.0
13.8
21.6
 






WEEKEND DAYTIME RATINGS: NBC aired six weekend afternoon telecasts during the Games, averaging 12.1 million viewers, which was up 14% from similar coverage four years ago. The net also saw big gains for morning coverage, aided by this past Sunday’s Gold Medal men’s basketball game. Also boosting morning audience figures was coverage of Andy Murray’s win over Roger Federer in the men’s Gold Medal tennis match. That match on Aug. 5 from 9:00-10:30am averaged a 5.5 rating and 8.2 million viewers. Those figure are higher than any men's Grand Slam final telecast dating back to a 6.2 rating for the Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi final in '02 U.S. Open. The Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova women's Gold Medal match on Aug. 4 was also higher than any Grand Slam final dating back to a 6.1 rating for Venus Williams' win over Serena in the '01 U.S. Open. The U.S.-Spain basketball game averaged 12.5 million viewers, marking the most-viewed Gold Medal game since the ’00 Sydney Games (16.3 million viewers). Sunday’s game was also up significantly from 6.0 million viewers for the same matchup four years ago. Early morning coverage on NBC averaged 5.7 million viewers, with no comparison to Beijing.

NBC WEEKEND NON-PRIMETIME AVERAGE OLYMPIC VIEWERS
DAYPART
LONDON (000)
BEIJING (000)
ATHENS (000)
Afternoon
12,100
10,600
9,500
Morning
10,500
8,000
6,000
Late night
6,200
5,500
5,300
Early morning
5,700
n/a
n/a
       

CABLE: Olympic coverage across NBCSN, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC averaged 716,000 viewers, up 2% from Beijing. During its first time airing Olympic coverage, NBCSN delivered its six top total-day audiences, and 11 of the top 12 days in NBCSN history came during the London Games. Coverage of seven U.S. men’s basketball team contests averaged 2.6 million viewers. The net also saw a boost to MLS coverage, which aired following Olympic coverage on July 28 and Aug. 5. The Galaxy-FC Dallas match (392,000 viewers) and FC Dallas-Timbers (405,000 viewers) mark the net’s most-viewed MLS games to date. Meanwhile, CNBC, which served as the home for boxing, averaged 449,000 viewers for coverage in the 5:00-8:00pm ET slot during the Games, down 22% compared to boxing coverage in the same time slot during Beijing. However, CNBC's average during London marked the net’s best audience in that time period since the Vancouver Games, when the net featured coverage of curling. CNBC typically airs “Fast Money,” “Mad Money” and “The Kudlow Report” during that 5:00-8:00pm period, which garners a much smaller audience. Tennis coverage on Bravo averaged 484,000 viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

BIG DRAWS FOR NBC: USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes NBC’s Olympic primetime average of 31.1 million viewers marks the first show to do so since Fox’ "American Idol" in '06 (USA TODAY, 8/14). ADWEEK’s Anthony Crupi wrote if disgruntled fans “were surprised at NBC’s ratings performance … perhaps no one was more shocked by the Nielsen data than” NBCU President of Research & Media Development Alan Wurtzel. He said that the network’s “momentum was ‘extraordinary,’ especially when one considers the advantages it enjoyed in Beijing.” He said, “There was a certain aura surrounding Beijing that was really seductive (and) there were a lot of events that were live in prime-time. I don’t think anybody thought we would come close to Beijing” (ADWEEK.com, 8/13).

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER
: In L.A., Joe Flint wrote under the header, “London Olympics Allows NBC To Feel Like Winner Again.” NBC needed to “at least show it still has a pulse and the Olympics did that.” For almost three weeks, the net “got a reminder of what it is like to be watched.” After “years of bad ratings, the brass there gets to feel like a winner again.” Hopefully that enthusiasm “won't fade when the Olympic torch is put back in the closet” (LATIMES.com, 8/13). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman names NBC a “winner” of the Olympics, but NBC viewers were losers (MIAMI HERALD, 8/14).

ISSUES: In DC, Lisa de Moraes writes, “As we say goodbye to our London Olympics TV-viewing experience, we leave NBC crowing, proud as a peacock, about its coverage that set digital records. And in the distance, #NBCFail-ites shout: ‘NBC bragging about its record-breaking Olympics TV viewing is like a dictator who’s the only one on a ballot bragging about winning' -- and other bons mots too numerous to mention” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/14). In L.A., Ed Sherman wrote NBC shows its Olympic franchise “is stronger than ever,” but it “wasn’t a completely smooth run for the network.” The issue of tape delay “figures to be a heated topic again.” The net also “has to solve glitches that hampered live streaming of events at NBCOlympics.com.” Too often, the “picture froze at crucial times on various digital devices.” Ultimately, NBC “still needs to overcome the perception issues.” Despite the high ratings, there “was significant criticism over NBC's overall package.” NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, “Some of it is fair and we are listening” (LATIMES.com, 8/13). But DAILY VARIETY’s Brian Lowry wrote what critics “overlook is how comfortable the audience has become with consuming media at their own pace, on their own terms” (VARIETY.com, 8/11).

PROBLEM SOLVED IN SOCHI? USA TODAY’s Hiestand writes the location of the ’16 Games “largely solves Olympic TV’s biggest bugaboo -- time-zone differences -- since Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is just an hour ahead of Eastern time.” It is “harder to say what lessons from NBC’s London coverage … can be applied to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.” Sochi is nine hours ahead of Eastern time, so “there will be an even bigger gap between when key action occurs and when it finally airs in traditional NBC prime time.” Hiestand: “Will NBC keep the prime-time formula? The network hasn’t flatly ruled out airing key action when it happens and then re-airing it in prime time.” But given the strong primetime ratings, even as NBC’s “digital Olympic traffic increased, there’s little reason to change the network’s prime-time formula” (USA TODAY, 8/14).

CLOSING COMMENTS: The AP’s Frazier Moore noted NBC “cut away from its coverage of the Olympics closing ceremony" to air the premier of "Animal Practice” aired at 11:00pm ET Sunday night, followed by local news. The net then "returned at midnight to finish with an eight-minute medley by the Who.” Host Bob Costas then “delivered an Olympics postscript before signing off after just 35 minutes in all” (AP, 8/13). CABLEFAX DAILY writes, “The net live streamed the entire closing ceremony earlier Sun. Cue viewer outrage. Twitter handle #nbcfail got one last major workout” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/14).

TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE: 76ers coach Doug Collins served as the main analyst for the men's Olympic basketball tournament, and in N.Y., Bob Raissman asks whether Collins is a “defacto coach or consultant for Team USA" and whether he was an objective analyst. The line at the Olympics "between broadcaster and cheerleader often gets blurred.” Raissman: “This thing with Collins is strange. Maybe it’s about how close he feels to Olympic hoops because his son, Chris, is on the coaching staff. And Collins has never gotten over [his squad's] controversial 51-50 loss to the Soviet Union in the final of the 1972 Munich Games.” He was “always known as a detail-oriented guy during his broadcasting career.” During stints with TNT and NBC, Collins had “to be encouraged to show more personality.” But a lack of enthusiasm “wasn’t the problem during the Olympics” for Collins (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/14).

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