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NBC's Olympic coverage rakes in viewers, profits are another story


NBC's 17 nights of coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics from Vancouver averaged 24.4 million viewers in prime time, according to Nielsen. Overall, about 190 million people watched some part of the games on NBC and its cable channels, putting the Vancouver games second in tune-ins only to the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway, which were seen by 204 million people.

The 24.4 million audience average is 21% higher than the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Although the ratings for NBC's coverage of the games were the highest since the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the network is still expected to lose about $250 million. Bidding for the 2014 and 2016 games should be heating up in the next year or so. NBC already has the rights to the 2012 Summer Games in London.

What remains to be seen is whether all the promotional spots for NBC's prime-time lineup that ran during the games will help the network, which has been mired in fourth place this season in viewers and key demographics.

NBC Universal Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol said, "It's important to note how truly dominant our performance is because of the many choices available in the world today." Lillehammer may still hold the record, but Ebrsol noted that back then "the average home had less than 40 channels" and today people have an average of 130 channels and a much more robust Internet.

Among the highlights was Sunday's USA vs. Canada hockey match, which drew 27.6 million viewers, the most to watch a hockey game since the U.S. won the gold in that sport in 1980. The games also beat Fox's powerhouse "American Idol" twice in viewers and once in adults 18-49.

NBC is pleased about the numbers, but its coverage was not without controversy. The network continued with its practice of offering many events on tape delay in much of the country, which is tougher to do in the Internet era. That led to complaints that the network was not adjusting to today's media environment and NBC did later carry some key hockey games live across the country. 

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Neil Young closes out the Winter Olympics. Credit: Gerry Kahrmann/Canwest News Service/MCT.

Comments () | Archives (9)

It has surprised me how few people have criticized the TV treatment by NBC produced by the almighty Dick Ebersol. Mr Ebersol has succeeded to make the Olympics into a showcase of TV personalities. Who has the best story to tell, who has lost a brother, sister mother or other family member or friend. Has there been something "naughty" to tell about the persons past. Can we make him into a TV star and ask them the most stupid questions about how they "feel" and do that over and over again just in case someone has missed it the first 2o times. Mr. Ebersol has succeeded to take the sport out of the Olympics altogether and replaced it with a soap opera treatment. The Olympic committee must stop this entertainment nonsense, before the hart of the Olympics has disappeared and commerce and soap opera have taken over the real competition the struggles and fight of each person to finally have a chance to compete against the worlds best. Now it starts to feel that they compete against TV persona with lots of money and sponsors behind them and TV interviewers and commentators kissing up to the most publicity hungry individual. Mr. Ebersol has turned the Olympics into an American Idol show, shame on you.

NBC's coverage of the Olympics was horrible. How they got such high numbers is beyond me. The Olympics were held 2.5 hours away, yet we couldn't watch them live. Friends in England, South Africa, and India could, but not us. Even the East coast got some live stuff, but not us. NBC didn't even try to keep results a secret (as if you weren't exposded to them anyway from a tons of other sources), you go to their website and they had result plastered all over. Horrible job. Then you start getting into the enormous about of commercials, and it only got worse. Then football guys giving analysis on the halfpipe? Are you serious?

Please, anyone, give the Olympics to someone else. At the very least, give them back to CBC so we can watch the Canadian broadcast. They are far and away better at covering the Olympics.

Ebersol is such a moron! The ratings were high because those of us who love the Olympics had nowhere else to go. If CBC still had broadcasting rights, cable viewers in Seattle would not have suffered through NBC's tedious tape-delayed broadcasts!


I agree.
Terrible coverage... I was so frustrated all games long...Unable to watch live event and it seems that figure skating and US athletes matters. We want to see all the competitor and live event. Not only American 5 hours after the race.
Please let someone else cover the next JO. We want to have the choice to watch it with another one...

NBC coverage was lousey! Too many teasers and not enough focusing on an event w/o interuptions. I want to see more skaters in lower standings instead of just the favorites. And the time delay...I don't want to stay up to midnight to watch an event that I already saw the results to online. Pointless. Please !! Somebody cover the Olympics instead of NBC!

The coverage is awful. The only reason the rating is so high is because NBC got the license, a MONOPOLY. In NYC, other News channels don't even show tapes of the Olympics, they only read the results. It's so shameful!
License should be granted to those network that intend to broadcast LIVE event, not tape most of the event, so that they can maximize ad revenue. NBC is all about getting the license to maximize ad revenue. Too bad the cast on NBC worked so hard to deliver a good show but the network decide not to show most events live.

I'm with COCO!!!

I'm from Canada, so naturally CTV which is our biggest Network had great Coverage... The best thing was I was able to watch many events OnLINE ...LIVE ( 1 minute delay)... It was great, never missed a hockey Game....and the video stream was pretty good!

Did NBC offer Online? Could you guys in the States access CTV Online (stream) or was that blocked also? Try it now...just curious how much get "Controlled"



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