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Michael 'Prime-time' Phelps helps NBC to drive ratings

August 12, 2008 |  2:05 pm

Pedestrians walk in front of a Michael Phelps poster in Beijing on Tuesday.

NBC's first four nights of broadcasts from the Beijing Games have averaged 30.4 million viewers during prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's 5 million more viewers than the network drew during the comparable period of its 2004 Athens Games broadcasts.

NBC's audience translated into a 17.1 prime-time rating, according to Nielsen data, or a 16% increase over the first four Athens Games broadcasts.

NBC's prime-time numbers peaked just after 10 p.m. when NBC showed (live in the East, delayed in the West) Michael "Prime-time" Phelps winning his third Beijing, and ninth career, Olympic gold medal.

In addition to Phelps' gold rush, NBC also benefited from viewer interest in the slew of medals that other U.S. athletes won at the Water Cube.

Through four nights, NBC Universal's family of networks (NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Oxygen, Bravo and Telemundo) has drawn 157 million total viewers (folks who've watched at least some Olympics action), up from 142 million during the similar period from Athens.

The media company also said that NBCOlympics.com had already surpassed the total number of page views, unique users and video streams from the entire Athens Games in 2004.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: Pedestrians walk in front of a Michael Phelps poster in Beijing on Tuesday. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty Images