NBC claims to have reached 180 million viewers in America with its recorded coverage of the Olympic Games in Beijing over the first week, 15 million more than for the event in Athens, with an average audience of 30 million in prime time. The online audience is reaching around 7.5 million individuals a day, with over 25 million video streams served in the first week.
NBC provides a Total Audience Measurement index or TAMi, showing reach across television, online, mobile and video on demand. Bringing together data from Nielsen for television, Ominiture for online, and Rentrak for video on demand, TAMi is an attempt by NBC to measure media exposure across different platforms.
On weekdays the online audience has reached around 7.5 million, while less than half a million users a day have been using the mobile service, including WAP pages and video streams. Television video on demand usage has been very limited, reaching only up to 120,000 homes a day, or a 0.1% reach.
NBC seems determined to emphasise the importance of network television in the media mix. “Television is the mother ship,” said Alan Wurtzel, who is responsible for research at NBC Universal. “In spite of the fact that it’s a three-platform world, we should never forget that the broadcast network alone is still a very powerful medium.”
There has been some criticism that many events have not been aired live in the United States in order to hold them over for prime time, but the decision seems to have been vindicated by the ratings.
The opening ceremony on Friday had an average audience of 35.7 million viewers from 8-11pm, the biggest prime time viewership for any network on any night since the Super Bowl. For NBC it was the most-watched primetime night since the series finale of Friends in 2004.
“This shows the power of network television,” said Jeff Zucker, the president and chief executive of NBC Universal, in an interview on CNBC. He said that since the last Olympics in Athens the erosion of network television has been pronounced, but that this event “shows that the pipes work and that if you put on great programming that people want to watch, then they’ll show up.” He described it as “a great watershed moment for network television”.
“Obviously nobody knows where the entire digital revolution is going and anybody who claims they know what the world is going to look like in five years obviously is not telling the truth,” he said. “I think the most important thing to come out of this week is really the power of network television which is a great story not just for NBC but for all our competitors and really a reminder the pipes are great and when the pipes work there’s nothing like it.”