Here it is, seventeen days after the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, and we’ve learned a few things. We learned that badminton is at least as intense off the court as it is on court, we’ve learned who Jessie J is, and we may just have learned that viewers are always going to be hungry for Olympic coverage. It’s possible that future Olympic Games may just follow the Super Bowl pattern – an impossibly massive television event that will have an even bigger audience next time.
But when you look closer, this national blanket of Olympic viewing had more interesting patterns at the local level.
Average Primetime Household ratings for the Olympic competition broadcasts were higher in many Central and Mountain markets, peaking with a 25.0 rating in Salt Lake City (a former Olympic host city, albeit for the Winter Games). The top five markets each had a household rating above 21.0, versus a national average of 16.5.
There may have been many factors influencing individual market deliveries, from market demographics to local weather to participating hometown athletes to any counterprogramming available (particularly from local sports teams). For example, Los Angeles sent 62 athletes to the Games, well more than any other market producing the most medals overall (38, 24 of them gold) — Primetime ratings averaged an 18.4. In fact, Los Angeles had more athletes than the top 10 markets combined (54). LA also topped the medal count of the top ten markets combined, which had 25 total medals, 16 of them gold.
But what seems to have some measurable impact upon viewing patterns is in the coverage start time. Those markets that ran Olympic coverage earlier (6PM-11:15PM), when HUTs where higher, vs later (7PM-12:15AM), tended to deliver stronger ratings. Four of the top five markets were earlier start time markets.
Overall, it was the most-watched event in US TV history, as 219.4 million Americans watched some part of these Olympic Games. Add one more World Record to these Olympics.
Moreover, this wasn’t just household viewing. The Olympics played in every restaurant, bar, barbershop, bodega or waiting room that had a TV. NBC literally cast a wide net for viewers, and we all happily jumped in.
In all, there were over 5,500 hours of Olympic coverage made available by NBC via their slate of traditional, online, and even 3D platforms. There were over 159 million digital video streams played of these Olympics – a 110% increase over those for the Beijing Games. Add 1.9 page views for NBCOlympics.com, and this was certainly the most well-covered Olympic Games in history.
Yet despite what some predicted might be saturation, these broadcasts are able to elicit sincere emotional connections from viewers that would seem to be virtually unquenchable.
It was easily the most talked about topic on social media during the past two weeks, reinforcing the evidence that TV content is the most social topic. Bluefin Labs estimated that NBC’s Olympic coverage was mentioned in 36 million social media comments, more than the Super Bowl, Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes, and seven World Series games – combined.
This is proof positive that people not only voraciously watch these Games on television, but they also inundate social media with what they’re watching on TV. People crave a shared experience, and television is the biggest one that there is, especially when it’s something we all rally around, like the Olympics.
And if you wonder why Americans care so much about the Summer Olympics, the proof might be in the medals. In Summer Olympic history, no other country has won more medals than the United States’ 2,409. In fact, the US has won nearly as many Gold medals — 976 — as the 1,122 total medals of the next most successful Summer Games nation, the Soviet Union. The US Olympic Team has certainly given us a lot to cheer for over the years, and American audiences just can’t get enough.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled summer.
|Top 10 Olympic Games Markets|
|Market||Start Time||HH Rating||Athletes||Medals|
|1 Salt Lake City||6:00||25.0||4||1|
|2 Kansas City||6:00||22.5||4||2|
|5 Columbus, OH||7:00||21.8||3||1|
|6 Norfolk–Portsmth–Newpt Nws||7:00||21.0||5||4|
|8 San Diego||7:00||20.4||14||3|
|9 Albuquerque–Santa Fe||6:00||20.3||0||0|
Source: Nielsen Arianna, Olympic.org, TVB