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Volume 10 No. 22


The BBC said that the audience for Friday night's coverage of the Olympic Opening Ceremony was "a record for the 21st century," according to Ben Fenton of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The average of 22.4 million viewers for a program that latest more than three hours was the biggest since '98, with a peak audience at 9:45pm GMT of 26.9 million viewers. The BBC said that the Opening Ceremony "was still being watched by more than 20 million people in the U.K. at midnight." It also proved to be "one of the largest audiences to have watched live television online," with a further 1 million seeing a streamed feed on the Internet. The last program to win a bigger average audience was the '98 football match in St. Etienne when Argentina knocked England out of the World Cup (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28).

RECORD U.S. AUDIENCE: In London, David Brown reported that "a record 40.7 million Americans watched" TV coverage of the Opening Ceremony despite the broadcast being delayed for up to seven hours. NBC said that "the average audience for the Ceremony was 6 million more" than the Opening Ceremony form Beijing in '08, and also beat the 39.8 million audience for the Atlanta Olympic Games in '96. NBC "was criticized" for not broadcasting the ceremony live. In addition, NBC also edited the ceremony to remove several sections. A tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terror attack on London was axed while an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest was inserted (LONDON TIMES, 7/28).

RECORDS FALL IN CANADA, TOO: Live coverage of the Opening Ceremony by Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium has broken records as the most-watched Summer Olympic Games broadcast on record in Canada. On average, 6.4 million Canadians watched the late-afternoon, 3.5-hour-plus ceremony from 4-7pm EST, making it the second most-watched Opening Ceremony in Canada behind the '10 Winter Games in Vancouver (13.5 million). The audience eclipsed the previous Summer Games record-holder, the '96 Atlanta Opening Ceremony (4.3 million), by 49%, and delivered nearly four times the audience of '08 Beijing Opening Ceremony (1.6 million), and more than four times the audience of '04 Athens Opening Ceremony (1.4 million) (BBM Canada).

AUSTRALIA'S EARLY MORNING: In Sydney, Michael Idato reported that "more than 2 million people across" the country braving a cold dawn watched the Opening Ceremony on TV. Nine's telecast of the Opening Ceremony, which was hosted by Eddie McGuire and Leila McKinnon, drew "2.41 million viewers across the entire four-hour ceremony." In the ceremony's final moments, when the Olympic cauldron was lit, it rose to almost 3 million viewers. Nine replayed it later to a national audience of 1.81 million (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/29).

SPAIN ON PAR: EL PERIODICO reported that TVE-1's broadcast of the Opening Ceremony was the "big star of television in Spain," with an average of 5.7 million people tuned in or a 46.1% market share. That number is just an average, "but you have to keep in mind" that most people did not watch the entire show. Overall, the "accumulated audience for the show" was more than 13.5 million people. It was the second most-watched Opening Ceremony ever behind the '92 Barcelona Games (EL PERIODICA, 7/28).

LOW GERMAN NUMBERS: The VOLKSSTIMME reported that an "average of 7.66 million people" watched the Opening Ceremony on Friday night. The broadcast attained a market share of 43.5%. Previous Opening Ceremonies reached higher audience numbers with '08 Beijing averaging 7.7 million viewers and '04 Athens averaging almost 13 million during prime time (VOLKSSTIMME, 7/28).

In Paris, Catherine Balle  reported that TF1's broadcast pulled in 8.7 million viewers in France or a 57% market share. The peak time was registered at 10:30pm GMT when 12.8 million people were tuned in to the ceremony (LE PARISIEN, 7/28).

The International Olympic Committee sold its TV rights in China for the '14 and '16 Olympics to CCTV for an estimated $160M, a sum that represents a more than 800% increase from what the broadcaster paid for the '06 and '08 Games. The increase affirms the IOC’s decision in '09 to begin selling rights on a country-by-country basis across Asia. The move was designed to increase rights fees from individual countries like China, and it’s succeeded in doing that. For the '06 and '08 Olympics, the IOC sold the rights to the Asian Broadcasting Union, a consortium of broadcasters from Japan, China and other markets, for $17.5M. In '09, it sold the rights in China alone to CCTV for a reported $100M. Sources familiar with CCTV’s deal for the '14 and '16 Olympics pegged it at $160M. The deal, announced on Saturday, will see CCTV retain the Olympic rights across linear, cable, digital and mobile platforms. It also gets the rights to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China in '14 and the Winter Youth Olympic Games in '16 in Lillehammer, Norway. IOC Executive Board member Richard Carrión, who led the negotiations, said: “CCTV has an unparalleled reach within China, and has promoted the Olympic Games, sport and the Olympic values to a Chinese audience for many years. We are delighted that we will be able to count on their support into the future.” The deal is the second one the IOC has announced around the London Games. The organization previously announced a nearly $100M rights deal with the BBC for '14-20 Olympics in the U.K. The IOC was paid $3.9B for the '10 and '12 Olympics. It has secured $3.7B in TV rights sales for the '14 and '16 Olympics, but it still has several territories to sell.

The BBC had to apologize for its coverage of the men's Olympic cycling road race Saturday after "it was savaged by viewers angry at the repeated mistakes, poor audio and lack of graphics," according to Daniel Boffey of the London GUARDIAN. The BBC's team -- Chris Boardman, Jill Douglas, Ed Leigh, Hugh Porter and Jamie Staff -- repeatedly made mistakes, with some viewers claiming a low point came when they told "bronze, fourth and fifth had gone to riders who actually came about 30th, 31st and 32nd." Gary Lineker, who is presenting much of the Games, also apologized for the camera work, tweeting: "This is the Olympics. The coverage is from a pool of broadcasters from across the world. I'm afraid that's how it is regardless of who hosts." The quality of coverage triggered an avalanche of derision on Twitter (GUARDIAN, 7/28).

GET OFF YOUR PHONES: Also in London, Paul Kelso reported that with around 1 million people lining the roads for the Olympic road race "the mobile network used by broadcasters became jammed by the mobile traffic," preventing organizers from receiving crucial timing and positional updates. An IOC spokesperson suggested that spectators watching Sunday's women's race should only send 'urgent' social media updates to avoid a repeat. Coverage of the first major event of the Games for the domestic audience was "undermined by an appalling service" from the Olympic Broadcast Service, which was unable to provide crucial information to commentators. The IOC said that "the problem was caused by the mobile network used by OBS becoming jammed, so that GPS data from the competitors' bikes could not be received" (TELEGRAPH, 7/29).

BBC GETTING IT RIGHT: In London, Euan Ferguson reported that the BBC "seems to be getting this so right." Coverage of the Olympics so far "has been near perfect." It was clear from the very start of coverage on Wednesday that the "whole corporation's team has either very good knowledge or very good crib-sheets, or most likely both." Sometimes even "too much information." On Friday, 27 million Brits watching so much brilliance, "utterly altered seven years of cynicism" (GUARDIAN, 7/28).

GOLDEN RULES: In Sydney, Michael Idato reported that the Nine Network "fails on golden rules" of commentating the Opening Ceremony of Olympic Games. The first is to read from the notes without sounding like you are reading from the notes. The second is not to blow the twist. Nine hosts Eddie McGuire and Leila McKinnon failed on both. McGuire, with very few exceptions, "sounded like he was reading slabs of text" off a page of pre-printed notes (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/29). 

The Nine Network's last-ditch efforts to stimulate interest in unsold TV advertising spots around its Olympics programing "has found some success," but it will not limit the network's losses, according to Darren Davidson of THE AUSTRALIAN. Nine Entertainment Group Sales and Marketing Dir Peter Wiltshire said, "The beauty of a short market is it gives us the ability to monetise really fast. There were plenty of people prepared to get on board at late notice." Wiltshire denied rumors that "advertisers were being offered a presence in every single advertising break during the Olympics to tempt them on board." He also denied allegations that "advertisers who booked Olympics airtime months ago had returned to renegotiate terms as complete rubbish." Nine's losses on the Olympics have been tipped to come in at $40M. Network sources "have acknowledged losses" around $25M. The rights to air the '16 Rio de Janeiro Games are still undecided, with Seven Chair Kerry Stokes said "to have a strong desire to recapture the broadcast rights from Nine" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 7/30).