NBC Sets Olympic Records


The final Nielsen Media Research medal count is in from Athens: 203 million total unduplicated viewers for NBC, making it the most viewed non-U.S. Summer Olympic Games in history.

USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo accounted for more than one-third of that total with 69 million unduplicated viewers of their own. Each posted significant advances in Olympic dayparts from the comparable 17 days in July: USA grew 54% in average viewers to 800,000; MSNBC ahead 193% to 460,000; Bravo was up 32% to 441,000; and CNBC soared 1,397% to 584,000 (NBC said some of CNBC’s early-morning July 2004 time-period includes paid programming, which normally is not rated).

In primetime, NBC, aided by flow from its cable networks and its promotional partnership with TV Guide Channel, averaged a 15.0 national rating, up 9% from its presentation from Sydney, Australia in 2000.

TV Guide Channel said that in its role as the exclusive on-air guide to the Games, it helped drive almost 35 million households to NBC and its cable networks, including 14.9 million to the Peacock in primetime and 9.2 million to the quartet of cable services.

One NBC network that didn’t step up to the pedestal: Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo saw its ratings drop by 25% with its soccer, boxing and baseball coverage, compared with regular fare from 1-8 p.m.

But with the solid overall ratings obviating the need for advertiser make-goods on the Peacock, NBC from Athens earned an estimated $70 million, a total it may be hard-pressed to match four years hence when the Summer Games play out in Beijing, China, as Asian-based Olympics have historically proven to generate lower ratings. Moreover, NBC’s rights fee will jump to $894 million from the $793 million it paid for the Athens competition. At the same time, NBC said it will televise events live in U.S. primetime.

As for the 2006 Winter Games in Torino—now just 522 days away—the primetime action again will be taped—like Greece, Italy is also seven hours from the East Coast. NBC paid $613 million for those rights.