NBC Universal's coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing drew more than 206 million viewers in its first 13 days, making it the second-most-viewed television event in U.S. history, trailing only the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics by just 3 million total viewers.
The 206 million total viewers — as of Aug. 20 — are 13 million more than watched the first 13 days of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and 2 million more than those who watched the entirety of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. NBCU's multiple-channel coverage of the games has reached more than 85% of U.S. households, the network said last Thursday.
The Beijing Olympics 13-day average primetime viewership is 29.0 million, 12% ahead of Athens in 2004 (26.0 million). NBC's average of a 16.9 rating, 29 share in households is the best through the second Wednesday for a Summer Olympics outside the U.S. since Barcelona in 1992 (17.9/34) and is a 7% jump from Athens in 2004 (15.8/27).
In primetime, NBC's Beijing Games has won all 79-rated half-hours against its entire network competition.
Also, NBCOlympics.com has recorded more than 1 billion page views, nearly double the 561.1 million page views it garnered for the 2004 Athens and 2006 Torino games combined.
Visitors have downloaded more than 60.8 million video streams, a nearly six-fold increase from the 10.8 million streams accessed during the Athens and Torino games combined.
Roughly 40% of NBC's summer Olympics ratings boost has come from more people watching TV, with the remaining 60% gained from the Peacock Network's competitors, according to a Turner Research analysis of Nielsen data.
TV viewership this summer overall has continued the medium's trend of being on the rise, according to Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting System.
During a summer-ratings press briefing at Time Warner Inc.'s headquarters in New York last Wednesday, Wakshlag said that even before the Olympics started this summer, adult audience delivery in primetime for both the Big Four broadcast networks and ad-supported cable had increased. Pre-Olympics summer, broadcast was up 1.1 million viewers and cable was up 1.6 million.
STRONG SUMMER VIEWING
“Television viewing is higher than ever,” Wakshlag said. “There was more television viewing this summer than ever before. It was true before the Summer Olympics and it's true since the Summer Olympics. The growth is driven by ad-supported cable, as is normally the case, and also this year by the Olympics on NBC.”
For this year's Olympics, NBC's primetime total-viewer ratings are averaging a 10.3, an increase of 8.5 rating points from 1.8 last year, according to Turner. Increased People Using Television — or so-called PUT levels, more people watching TV — account for 38% of NBC's ratings' lift, Wakshlag said. NBC's remaining roughly 60% ratings boost is coming from the hide of its competitors.
“Almost 40% of the viewing is coming from increased PUT levels, which is more television viewing,” Wakshlag said. “So 40% of NBC's growth seems to be coming from people who don't normally watch as much TV watching more TV, watching the Olympics, and 60% coming from the competitors.”
PUT levels this summer are at 37.0, compared with 33.8 a year ago. And NBC's competitors in primetime are averaging a 25.0 rating this summer, compared with 29.7 in 2007.
CABLE'S OVERALL RECORD
Ad-supported cable's summer viewing overall has hit an all-time record, delivering 51 million viewers in primetime, up 451,000 from last year, according to Turner.
TNT's hit drama The Closer, in its fourth season, is the No. 1 ad-supported cable series of not only the season but all time, according to Turner. The show's been averaging 7.3 million viewers season to date, which is flat but still a strong showing since it's been competing against the Olympics, Wakshlag said.
And USA's scripted drama In Plain Sight is the top-rated new original series of the summer. It's averaged 4.5 million viewers.
Turner also offered data on the most-DVRed shows. Sci Fi Channel's Stargate Atlantis sees a 100% lift in adults 18 to 49 with viewing from DVRs added in, with Bravo's Project Runway getting a 73% boost in that demographic, according to Turner.