After paying $1.1 billion to license the U.S. broadcast rights to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London (plus another $200 million in production costs), it makes sense that NBC would want to continue milking the event for all that it’s worth, even though the “happy and glorious” Games officially came to a close yesterday. This is especially true given how ratings for the Games have outperformed expectations, leading NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus to even speculate last week that there might be “a small chance we could make a little bit of money.” (Initial projections had the network losing $200 million on the Olympics.)
But fans indeed tuned in to make this a successful Olympics for the Peacock. Through 16 days (counting through Saturday, Aug. 11), NBC says that their Olympics coverage averaged 31.1 million viewers in primetime, making it the most-watched non-U.S. Summer Olympics since Montreal in 1976. The 16-day average primetime viewership of 31.1 million is up 12 percent from the first 16 nights of the 2008 Beijing Olympics (27.7 million), and up 25 percent from the first 16 nights of the 2004 Athens Olympics (24.9 million).
Saturday’s primetime coverage drew an average of 21.8 million viewers, the most-watched final Saturday of competition for a non-U.S. Summer Olympics since the 1988 Games in Seoul, and marked the 15th time in 16 nights that the average viewership for the London Olympics surpassed the Beijing Olympics. This viewership beat the comparable night from Beijing by 30 percent (16.8 million) and Athens by 21 percent (18 million).
Numbers like that were helped by strong performances and compelling stories from a number of American athletes, and also from by personalities and performances from other countries, including Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, always a draw. The host country, Great Britain, also did well, and had some fascinating stories and athletes of its own to watch, in addition to presenting memorable opening and closing ceremonies.
Perhaps hoping to ride these numbers, and increase Lazarus’ hopes of making that “little bit of money,” NBC and its networks will keep the Olympic party going throughout this week here in the States, even though the flame has been extinguished in London.
Today‘s Olympic Homecoming
NBC’s Today returns stateside after covering the games in London, and also welcomes home several of the Olympic stars who captured the hearts of many Americans. Each day this week, Olympic athletes will serve as special contributors on the show. Contributing Olympians will include “The Fierce Five” (gymnasts Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross); gold medal diver David Boudia; soccer star Hope Solo; track-and-field sprinter Allyson Felix; and swimmers Cullen Jones and Katie Ledecky, Team USA’s youngest member at age 15.
Athletes on The Tonight Show
Gymnast Gabby Douglas, winner of two gold medals in London, and swimmer Missy Franklin, winner of four golds and one bronze medal (and who set an individual world record and was part of the 4x100m medley world-record relay team), will appear on NBC’s The Tonight Show this week. Douglas appears tonight, Aug. 13, and Franklin appears Aug. 15.
Return to London: The Games of the XXX Olympiad
This special relives some of the great moments of the London Olympics. It premieres Aug. 13, with a 16-hour marathon starting at 9am ET on NBC Sports Network. Additional Return to London programming will continue throughout the week and conclude on Aug. 19.
Return to London airs throughout the day on Monday with many of the most engaging gold medal matches, games and races. Highlights of Return to London include Michael Phelps’ record-breaking 22 Olympic medals, and his retirement as the most decorated Olympian of all time; Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ third consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball; Usain Bolt’s Olympic record as the first man to win consecutive gold medals in the 100m and 200m; USA women’s gymnastics, as “The Fab Five” took the United States’ first gold medal since 1996, and all-around gold medal winner Gabby Douglas; Ryan Lochte’s gold-medal performance in the 400 individual medley; Kenyan David Rudisha’s win in the 800 meters in world-record time; USA women’s soccer gold medal win against Japan, redemption for their 2011 World Cup loss; Allyson Felix winning the 200m gold in track and field. Other events include additional track and field coverage, men’s and women’s basketball finals, cycling and BMX events, diving and water polo. Additionally, the coverage will include a number of post-event interviews, and also showcases Bob Costas’ interview with Michael Phelps.
Here’s an overview of the first day of programming for NBC Sports Network’s Return to London: The Games of the XXX Olympiad. For the entire Return to London schedule, visit NBCOlympics.com.
Aug. 13 (All Times Eastern)
9am: Track and Field — Men’s Sprints
10am: Track and Field — Women’s Sprints
11am: Beach Volleyball — Women’s Final
12pm: Water Polo — Women’s Final
1pm: Swimming (Part 1) — Women
2pm: Swimming (Part 2) — Women
3pm: Gymnastics — Men’s All-Around
5pm: Gymnastics — Women’s All-Around
7pm: Swimming (Part 1) — Men
8pm: Swimming (Part 2) — Men
9pm: Basketball — Men’s Final
11pm: Basketball — Women’s Final
1am: Track and Field — Men’s Sprints
Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBC