Have we mentioned that Americans–a lot of 'em, in fact–weren't happy with the fact that, in a Twitter-dominated media world, NBC continued to partake in an archaic Olympic broadcast strategy that had the network airing featured events solely on tape delay?
Oh, we have.
Well, it doesn't appear as though that hurt NBC at the box office.
The network has announced that the London Olympics were the most watched television event in U.S. history, which sounds pretty epic but is in actual fact not surprising whatsoever.
According to NBC, these Games drew a total of 219.4 million Americans to the networks of NBCUniversal, which beats the 2008 Olympics in Beijing by 4.4 million.
OK, two caveats. First, more people should be expected to watch annual events with each passing year. And in the case of the Summer Olympics–a quadrennial event–that should absolutely be the case. Turns out that hasn't been the case completely, but logic says that's how the numbers should pan out.
After all, the population of the United States increases by approximately 2-3 million every year. If that number is currently 312 million and in the summer of 2008 it was about 302 million, that's an increase of about 3.3 percent. Meanwhile, the jump from 215 million viewers to 219.4 million viewers represents an increase of only about 2.1 percent.
Hate to break it to you, NBC, but that means that on a per capita basis more people watched the 2008 Olympics than the 2012 Games… and '08 took place entirely across the world (although some events were actually televised live in primetime in Beijing).
Anyhow, that's my tangent, which doesn't mean a whole lot considering these numbers, provided by the network:
1. London Olympics – 2012 219.4 million NBC
2. Beijing Olympics – 2008 215 million NBC
3. Atlanta Olympics – 1996 209 million NBC
4. Lillehammer Olympics – 1994 204 million CBS
5. Athens Olympics – 2004 203 million NBC
6. Seoul Olympics – 1988 194 million NBC
7. Barcelona Olympics – 1992 192 million NBC
8. Vancouver Olympics – 2010 190 million NBC
9. Salt Lake City Olympics – 2002 187 million NBC
10. Sydney Olympics – 2000 185 million NBC
Winter Games shouldn't factor in because they don't have as many events and they just don't attract audiences like the Summer Olympics do. And Atlanta makes sense out of place because those Games took place on American soil. But what's up with Lillehammer? And why did Sydney do so much worse than Beijing? The math doesn't account for those Games being out of order, and it can't be a CBS thing with Lillehammer because that network also had Nagano in 1998, which didn't even make the top 10.
Here are some numbers from NBC that are undeniably impressive:
- The London Olympics average primetime viewership of 31.1 million viewers is 3.4 million more viewers and 12% higher than the Beijing Olympics (27.7 million) 6.5 million more viewers and 26% higher than the Athens Olympics (24.6 million).
- Nine nights of the London Olympics have drawn more than 30 million viewers, topping the combined total from the 2008 Beijing Olympics (5) and 2004 Athens Olympics (2).
And some that are sad:
- According to Nielsen live + same day data, the last primetime series to average 30 million viewers was the 2006 season of American Idol.
From a ratings perspective, it was also a very successful Games, but those numbers are hard to get a grip on because television viewership has obviously been diluted by the 1,374 channels now available in the majority of households.
Also, more people watched these Olympics during the daytime than the Beijing Games. Yet that might have had something to do with the fact that it was like, the middle of the night in China during those hours. This time, daytime in the United States matched up perfectly with primetime in Great Britain. Had NBC aired more live events during the day, that daytime average might have rose even more than it did (from 5.4 million to 7.1 million).
Also interesting is NBC's list of the most "clicked on" athletes at NBCOlympics.com:
1. Gabby Douglas, Gymnast, USA: 23,427,579
2. McKayla Maroney, Gymnast, USA: 14,119,945
3. Usain Bolt, Track & Field, Jamaica: 12,922,670
4. Michael Phelps, Swimmer, USA: 7,997,617
5. Misty May-Treanor, Beach Volleyball, USA: 7,638,830
6. Jordyn Wieber, Gymnast, USA: 6,645,748
7. Alex Morgan, Soccer, USA: 6,532,436
8. Aly Raisman, Gymnast, USA: 5,914,297
9. Stephan Feck, Diver, Germany: 3,799,552
10. Jen Kessy, Beach Volleyball, USA: 3,537,464
Naturally, a 7-to-3 girl-to-guy ratio. And if you're wondering who Stephan Feck is, he's this guy.