Opening Ceremonies Do Well on NBC (Updated)
Pleased to offer a report from television columnist Lisa de Moraes below.
But first, this is a good place to mention that Paul Farhi's blog on Olympic TV coverage, "Playback," is up and running. Check it out ... here's Lisa:
NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing was the most watched ever for a non-U.S. Summer Olympics in the nearly 50 years of televised Games, according to early stats from NBC.
An estimated 70 million viewers watched at least six minutes of the $300 million extravaganza, NBC says. Meanwhile, the broadcast's average audience - the stat that goes in the record books on most TV programming - hit more than 34 million.
The first number - the so-called "reach" stat - is relevant to advertisers because it's presumed anyone who watched at least 6 minutes of a broadcast saw an ad break.
For comparison sake, both the Athens and Sydney Olympics opening ceremonies reached 56 million viewers and had average audiences of about 25 million and 27 million, respectively.
Friday's numbers do not eclipse the crowds who'd tuned in to the Atlanta Summer Games' opening ceremony. That program "reached" 77 million viewers and had an average audience of just under 40 million. Domestic Games broadcasts typically do better numbers than overseas Games, in part because of tape delays.
NBCOlympics.com, meanwhile reported 70 million pages views Friday - 10 times more than the 7 million page views on opening day of the Athens Games in '04.
NBC execs are dancing the happy dance, having spent nearly $900 million for U.S. telecast and digital rights to the Games, and given that some industry navel gazers predicted the opening ceremony would not match viewing levels of the Athens opener.
Conventional wisdom said the opening extravaganza's tape delay would be a problem; there was also some talk the boatloads of photos, news reports, and video available hours before NBC's broadcast via the Web might tamp down viewing levels. Happily for NBC, that proved to be a bunch of hooey, as does so much of TV industry navel gazing.
As with the very preliminary household rating/share stats released earlier today, these latest figures based on information from Nielsen Company, do not include viewing of the opening ceremony from 7:30-8 p.m. or from 11:19 p.m. until the bash wrapped around midnight. If you were watching during those times only, you are irrelevant. NBC can wipe those sure-to-be-lower-viewing periods from the opening ceremony-cast because it put all of its TV stations' local ads in the breaks during those times; no national ads ran in the commercial breaks you saw at the start of, or in the final 40-minutes-ish of the ceremony.
Nielsen, you see, has this alternate reality in which any portion of a national broadcast that contains only local ads does not have to be counted. That's because, Nielsen claims, they are in the business of providing ratings to advertisers, not viewers or The Reporters Who Cover Television. To be fair, NBC's not the only network that plays this game with big-ticket broadcasts. You should see how the networks carve up the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, etc.
In a nutshell:
Non-U.S. Opening Ceremony Average Audience Ranking:
1) Beijing, 2008: 34.2 million
2) Sydney, 2000: 27.3 million
3) Athens, 2004: 25.4 million
4) Seoul, 1988: 22.7 million
5) Barcelona, 1992: 21.6 million
Non-U.S. Opening Ceremony "Total" Audience (Audience Reach):
1) Beijing, 2008: 69.9 million
2) Athens, 2004: 56.0 million
3) Sydney, 2002: 56.0 million
4) Seoul, 1988: 51.2 million
5) Barcelona, 1992: 50.2 million
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