Peter Kafka

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NBC Holds One Last Olympic Victory Dance

Did you hate watching NBC’s coverage of the Olympics this summer? You’re in good company.

That is: You were watching NBC’s coverage of the Olympics alongside a good chunk of the U.S. population. More of them than ever, actually.

The broadcaster says the games were the most popular TV event in U.S. history, pulling in 219 million viewers across 17 days. That’s just above the 215 million that tuned in for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

If you’ve been following NBC’s statements during the games, then today’s news won’t surprise you. Short version: The network says that despite the nattering nabobs, its coverage was a ginormous success.

The longer version comes via a press release which credits the network’s coverage with curing cancer, turning lead into gold and levitating the Pentagon. You should eventually be able to read it here.

The most interesting statistic is that NBC pulled in an average of 31.1 million viewers in prime time — the time the network dedicated to showing heavily edited versions of events that had occurred hours earlier. NBC’s vociferous critics argued that by keeping marquee events off the air until later, NBC diminished their value. But results like this will make it difficult to sway the network brass.

To harp on this point one more time: Last night’s closing ceremonies, in which no sports of any kind occurred, also aired hours after the fact. And even that non-event drew an average of 31 million people — about a third of all TV viewers. (Alternate theory: We are vastly underestimating the Jessie J fan base.)

And yes, there was streaming, too. NBC’s press release is full of gaudy statistics comparing this year’s streaming usage to Beijing, but that seems besides the point, since Beijing had next-to-no live streaming.

Relevant stat here: Pay TV subscribers “verified” some 10 million devices (PCs, iOS, Android), meaning they could watch live events on NBC’s site and apps. And they collectively streamed 13.6 million hours of coverage.


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