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Volume 24 No. 116
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Phelps' Record Swim, Gymnastics Team's Win Delivers NBC Best Olympic Night Since '96

NBC is averaging a 19.5 rating and 35.6 million viewers through the first five nights of taped competition from the London Games, up 10% and 14%, respectively, from a 17.8 rating and 31.3 million viewers through the same period during the '08 Beijing Games, when much of the competition was shown live. The net finished with a 21.8 rating and 38.7 million viewers for Tuesday night's telecast, marking the highest-rated night of any Summer Olympics since the '96 Atlanta Games. Tuesday's coverage was highlighted by Michael Phelps winning his record 19 Olympic medal and the U.S. women's gymnastics team earning the Gold in the team competition. The 19.5 rating marks the best Tuesday night primetime rating for any net -- regardless of programming -- since Feb. 19 during the '02 Salt Lake City Games, when coverage featuring the ladies' figure skating short program, averaged a 22.3 rating (THE DAILY).

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

ABOUT LAST NIGHT: NBC earned a 20.1 overnight Nielsen rating for the sixth night of coverage from the London Games last night. While figures are subject to change when final numbers are released, the overnight is up 2.5% from a 19.6 rating for the same night during the Beijing Games. Last night’s coverage featured the men’s gymnastics all-around Gold Medal final, as well as swimming Gold Medal finals for the men’s 20-meter breaststroke and 100-meter freestyle and women’s 200-meter butterfly and the 200-meter freestyle relay (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

LAZARUS SAYS NBC COULD SEE PROFIT: NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus on a conference call today said the net could be profitable on the London Games after losing $200M in the ’10 Vancouver Games. He said, “We think there’s a small chance, and a chance we could make a little bit of money. We’ll know over the next couple weeks.” NBC realized Monday it could re-enter the ad market, and Lazarus said, “Once we got a few days of competition under our belt, we had a degree of confidence that we could sustain at least some level of where the ratings were at.” He added, “We have on-going sales and interest from people who have sort of caught the fever of what’s going on out there and contacted us about buying more inventory” (Joe Perez, THE DAILY).

TAPE DELAY IS A-OKAY? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Suzanne Vranica reports while "particular anger has been unleashed" on NBC's tape-delayed primetime coverage, it is "hard to say" exactly how widespread the disapproval is. One group "critical to NBC's financial standing doesn't seem to mind: media buyers and Olympic advertisers such as Coca-Cola Co. and Chobani Yogurt." Coca-Cola Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer Joe Tripodi said, "There will always be individuals who complain about everything, and now, with social media, they have a megaphone to broadcast their opinions over the Internet. I much prefer the NBC broadcast to theirs." Kellogg Co. Senior VP/Marketing Doug VandeVelde said, "Consumers are voting with their eyeballs." However, Vranica notes ad buyers "wonder if there are enough compelling story lines to carry the momentum through the rest of the 17-day Olympic broadcast" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/2).

IF IT AIN'T BROKE...: In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote fans may dislike the way NBC presents the Olympics "for mass consumption, but we're still watching." It would be "terrible business for NBC to air its coverage of the gymnastics finals or a Michael Phelps race as they happen for a basic television reason: They’re happening five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, which means they’re happening in daylight. More people, duh, watch TV at night" (, 8/1).'s Michael Rosenberg asked, "If you ran NBC, would you radically change the coverage?" Rosenberg: "Your job is to make a profit. Once you dole out $47.3 kazillion dollars for these Olympics ... you really need to maximize your prime time television rating. Otherwise you'll get fired from your job running NBC." He added, "If I ran NBC, I'd be terrified of changing anything. ... I'd worry that if I changed the coverage, I'd attract 500,000 more hardcore sports fans and lose 5 million casual Olympics fans" (, 8/1). NBC's Al Michaels said, "If a television executive knew or felt or thought, or researched showed that you would get a bigger audience at 10 o’clock in the morning than at 8 o’clock at night, what time do you think we’d be on? We’d be on at 10 o’clock in the morning. It's so simple. ... The ratings are fantastic" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 8/2). SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote, "NBC isn't doing a disservice to its viewers. It's just ignoring the ones who don't matter." For the net, the London Games is "programming more than it is sport." NBC's goal "is not to make diehards happy; it's to create an ideal television viewing experience" (, 7/31). Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Pat Boyle: “Everyone’s upset with the tape delay, but the ratings say they’re doing just fine.” The Chicago Tribune's Dave Van Dyke: "It’s like a soap opera. Once you start watching the thing, you’ve got to keep watching it every day” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 8/1).

THE PSYCHE OF THE VIEWER: The AP's David Bauder writes some viewers "detach themselves from the news so the results of NBC's tape-delayed prime time are a surprise to them," but it is "clear that many people do the opposite -- they seek out the results and base their viewing decisions on them." Tuesday's coverage of the gymnastics team's win "had 7 million more viewers than the night before, when the men's team fell flat" (AP, 8/2). In Boston, Sara Gaynes writes, “I’m actively avoiding spoilers, but I keep learning results anyway." Gaynes found out about U.S. swimmer Matt Grevers' win in the 100-meter backstroke, Phelps' record medal and the gymnastics team's win online, but she still "watched all three performances hours later." Gaynes: "Why? Because the Olympics are not just about the medals. They’re about the stories, the performances, every moment leading up to the win” (BOSTON HERALD, 8/2). Quinnipiac Univ. journalism professor Richard Hanley said, "Television is best equipped to present the Olympics as spectacle, as a story, even if you know the outcome." He added that watching the Olympics "is a communal event." Hanley: "People tend to watch the Olympics with other people, the big screen, with wonderful high-definition. You could see the tears flowing" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/2).

COVERAGE REVIEWS: The FINANCIAL TIMES' John Gapper writes NBC's coverage of the London Games "has been less like a sports broadcast than a surrealist farce in which the characters affect to know less than the audience." Doing something "so ridiculous, no matter how ingeniously it may be justified on financial grounds, takes its toll on NBC's credibility" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/2). The AP's Bauder writes, "There's a formula to NBC's prime time, and it makes the Olympics seem smaller than it is," but it is "hard to argue with success." Bauder: "Start out with some diving, mix in a Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings beach volleyball match, some swimming and gymnastics." Meanwhile, it "was a spoiler" when NBC's Bob Costas gave a "nice tribute" to British Gold Medal-winning rowing team of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning. Bauder: "You knew the British contenders wouldn't be winning any subsequent competitions NBC showed Wednesday night" (AP, 8/2). In Las Vegas, C. Douglas Nielsen notes U.S. skeet shooters Kim Rhode and Vincent Hancock won Gold Medals, "both setting Olympic records in the process." Unfortunately, the U.S. "will never see the shooting sports on TV in their entirety." Shooting events "don't just take a backseat to swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball; they are kept in the trunk." However, highlights are available "if you dig around the Olympic website," and they are "worth watching" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/2). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes NBC's "four-hour shows have been well-edited and extremely entertaining." But primetime "shouldn't begin at 8 p.m. in this case." Instead it "should run from 7 p.m. to 11" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/2). 

SNEAKING THROUGH THE ALLEY: In L.A., Laura Hautala writes some Olympic fans "not happy with NBC's coverage ... have found a way around the BBC restrictions by using a common online business tool -- a virtual private network that can cost as little as $10 a month." Some viewers are "using them to fool the BBC into thinking a computer is in Britain when it isn't." BBC spokesperson Ian Walker said the net "geo-blocks its online content." Walker "would not respond to questions about VPN use to get around the blocks" (L.A. TIMES, 8/2). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the commentary "is great" on the BBC's coverage. It is "more subdued -- silence is not at all uncommon -- and the vocabulary is definitely British.” In one badminton match, a player was "trying to convince a referee that a shuttlecock that was clearly in had landed out.” The BBC commentator then said, “Ooooh, she’s being a bit naughty there” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/2).

LACK OF STREAMING INFORMATION: AD WEEK's Charlie Warzel wrote it is "shocking how little data has been released on how many folks are bothering to stream the games." He asked, "Is the Web more trackable than TV?" In an age when site metrics are "monitored obsessively, there would seem to be no logistical reason to release digital metrics so slowly." It is "possible NBC is biding its time and bundling their digital numbers to gain a larger sample size, but questions inevitably arise as the company stays mum" (, 8/1).