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Volume 24 No. 112
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Monday Primetime Gives NBC First Olympics Ratings Drop Compared To Beijing

NBC earned a 20.1 overnight Nielsen rating last night for primetime Olympic coverage, marking it first ratings decline compared to the ’08 Beijing Games. Taped coverage on the fourth night of the London Games, which featured U.S. swimmers Missy Franklin winning gold in the 100-meter backstroke, was down 5% from the same night in Beijing. Most of the comparable telecast in ’08 was shown live, including U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps winning the third of his eight gold medals. The 20.1 overnight is still up from Athens in ’04 (19.6).

FIRST WEEKEND: Through three nights, NBC had a 19.2 final rating and 35.8 million viewers, up 17% and 12%, respectively, from a 17.1 rating and 30.6 million viewers during the first weekend of the '08 Beijing Games. The 35.8 million viewership average marks the best figure in Olympic history, dating back to the first televised Games in '60. The 19.2 average rating is the best three-day average since a 21.4 rating during the '96 Atlanta Games. Salt Lake City leads all U.S. markets to date with a 25.8 local rating (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Horizon Media Research Dir Brad Adgate tweeted, "First 3 nights the median age of the has been 49.1 & 55% of the audience are female. In Beijing it was 48.4 & 54.6% after 3 days" (, 7/31).

Opening Ceremony
Day 2
Day 3
3-Night Avg.

DAY THREE HIGHLIGHTS: NBC's third night of primetime coverage finished with a 19.8 rating and 36.0 million viewers for tape-delayed action, marking the highest-rated and most-viewed first Sunday for a non-U.S. Summer Olympics on record. Those figures also are up 9% and 11%, respectively, from the first Sunday in '08. The net’s morning coverage on Sunday from 9:51am-12:00pm ET averaged an 8.2 rating and 12.7 million viewers, up 6% and 8%, respectively, from the comparable period during Beijing. Coverage from 12:00-6:00pm averaged a 9.9 rating and 16.0 million viewers, up 11% and 13%. Early-morning coverage from 7:00-9:51am drew a 4.3 rating and 6.0 million viewers, while late-night recap (12:35-1:22am) drew a 4.6 rating and 6.9 million viewers (NBC). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes Sunday morning's coverage, which included a cycling event, would “be a good rating for most college football bowls.” Sunday afternoon's coverage, highlighted by water polo and beach volleyball, were “better than the ratings for final-round coverage of the Masters and five games in last fall’s World Series.” NBC’s late-night recap was more than “double what ESPN got” for Red Sox-Yankees on Sunday night (USA TODAY, 7/31).

TUNING IN: In Florida, David Dorsey notes the Ft. Myers-Naples market, which ranks at the bottom of the 56 U.S. metered markets in size, "vaulted to No. 5 in the nation for watching the first night of Summer Olympic competition Saturday." Scarborough Research found that the average viewing age in Ft. Myers-Naples is 51.5, "compared to the national average of 46.7.” NBC Sports VP/Communications Adam Freifeld said that having an “older market that lacks a major league sports team and other distractions could help drive local TV viewership of the Olympics.” Dorsey notes NBC News “announced early Saturday evening that U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte had won the gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley and that Michael Phelps finished fourth, failing to medal.” WBBH-NBC GM Steve Pontius said, “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, there go the ratings.’” However, WBBH’s viewership actually “peaked Saturday night between 9:30 and 10 p.m., when that race was shown, with a 27.69 rating.” Sports media blogger Ken Fang: “Older Americans aren’t on Twitter. They’re willing to wait. They’re probably not sorting through the results that are already being reported through social networking and on Websites” (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 7/31). Meanwhile, in San Jose, Charlie McCollum notes the regions with the biggest viewership were the Pacific and Mountain time zones, where “the tape delays were tape delayed an additional three and two hours, respectively” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/31).

: The GUARDIAN’s Emma Keller wrote under the header, “In NBC Olympics Coverage Competition Comes Second To Praising Team USA.” Keller wrote, “We didn't mind you cheering about Dana Vollmer in the women's butterfly on Sunday night, she won a gold medal and broke a world record after all. But when the first South African wins a gold medal in men's swimming it would be nice to give him more than ten seconds of air time before racing over to gush about Team USA Brendan Hansen's bronze.” Keller continued: “NBC, it was your own Bob Costas who said the Olympics are a competition not a celebration. Show us more of the competition and stop praising the home team unless they actually win” (, 7/30). In N.Y., John Branch wrote it is “strange to cover the Olympics several times and then sit one out and watch on television.” A “straightforward competition in person becomes a network reality show, a narrated passion play set to dramatic music and slow-motion replays” (, 7/30). CABLEFAX DAILY notes, “Not everyone’s a critic.” The U.S. sailing team on Sunday tweeted, “This is by far the greatest sailing TV coverage in #Olympic history” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/31).

: AD WEEK’s Sam Thielman reviewed NBC’s online streaming and wrote it has been “plagued by feeds of events that aren't happening, feeds that pixellate or freeze, and are interrupted by ads every five minutes, whether or not a gymnast is hovering in mid-leap.” The latter is “particularly troublesome -- the streaming site allows viewers to watch one feed in a large window with live commentary and sound and one in a silent, smaller window; when the ad comes up, it gets played in the large window and the small window goes blank, so there's no chance whatsoever of your ignoring the advertisement in favor of your favorite event.” This has led “pretty directly to a Twitter-storm of outrage -- NBCfail, #NBCsucks, and a Twitter account (@NBCDelayed) devoted entirely to mocking the lateness of the results.” The streaming has split the online viewers “into two camps: one that's forever complaining about the ad-supported, MSO-approved website, and another that's extolling the virtues … of using a pirated signal to watch the Olympics on the BBC” (, 7/30). Ed Sherman in a blog entry wrote under the header, “Technical Glitches From Shouldn’t Be Unexpected.” Sherman: “Clearly, the technology isn’t there yet to support such a massive on-line extravaganza at Unlike television, there still are too many variables when it comes to Internet providers, mobile devices, individual computers, etc. It all adds up to plenty of room for error.” He added, “My computer seized up on me Sunday morning. I never got to watch the end of that badminton match” (, 7/30).

BRINGING IN BACKUP: In N.Y., Carson Griffith cited a source as saying that NBC “flew Hoda Kotb to London over the weekend to take part in the ‘Today’ show's Olympic coverage because audiences weren’t digging” Ann Curry's replacement, Savannah Guthrie (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/31). Kotb this morning made her debut in London, interviewing Franklin following her Gold Medal-winning swim in the 100-meter backstroke. Franklin during the interview was reunited with her parents after not seeing them since early July. Guthrie introduced Kotb by saying, “Hoda Kotb, who has made her way to London, talked to Missy right after the race.” NBC’s Matt Lauer said to Kotb, “Welcome to London” ("Today," NBC, 7/31).
THIS IS "TODAY": Tuesday's "Today" episode heavily featured Franklin, who Lauer called “the female version of Michael Phelps.” Following Kotb’s interview with Franklin, the swimmers’ parents were interviewed live on-set. Swimmers Matt Grevers and Nick Thoman, who finished 1-2 in the 100-meter backstroke, were interviewed live, as were male gymnasts Jonathan Horton and Jake Dalton following their failure to medal in the team competition. The opening hour also included a report on U.S. women's soccer G Hope Solo tweeting about NBC’s Brandi Chastain and a live interview with members of Lochte’s family. Former Gold Medalists Carly Patterson, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin previewed the U.S. women’s gymnastics team bid for the team Gold Medal in the second hour. That segment also included live interviews with Bronze Medal-winning synchronized divers Nick McCrory and David Boudia and a discussion of the U.S. swim team’s success with analyst Rowdy Gaines and’s Alan Abrahamson. The third hour featured live interviews with NBC’s Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel previewing tonight’s women’s gymnastics action, the parents of gymnast Aly Raisman and Bronze Medal-winning judoka Marti Malloy. A taped profile of Franklin also aired (THE DAILY).