The record has held since the Atlanta Games in 1996, but the Beijing Olympics are pacing ahead of that record viewership and NBC Universal is looking at the possibility of setting a new record this year. Through the first two days, a record 114 million people had watched the Beijing Games on NBCU outlets, four million more than the first two days of the Atlanta Summer Olympics.
Building on the Friday debut, Saturday’s coverage on the Networks of NBC Universal reached 92 million total viewers, 14 million ahead of the comparable Saturday from Athens in 2004 (78 million).
NBC’s Beijing Olympic two-day average viewership is 29.1 million and the national rating average of 16.2/30 is the best primetime rating through the first Saturday for a non-U.S. Summer Olympics since Montreal in 1976 (22.1/46) and a 22 percent jump from Athens in 2004 (13.3/25).
Saturday night’s 24.1 million average viewers bested Athens by nearly 4.5 million viewers (19.8) and earned a rating of 13.9 rating/27 share, an 18 percent jump from Athens in 2004 (11.8/23).
NBC’s live primetime coverage, which included Michael Phelps collecting his first Beijing gold medal and seventh career Olympic gold medal in the 400m Individual Medley, and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh winning their first match in Beach Volleyball, peaked with a 16.4/30 and 28.7 million average viewers in the 10 pm half hour.
Last night was expected to also draw big numbers. Michael Phelps was swimming live in primetime on NBC for what could be a record-tying 9th career Olympic gold medal.
RBR/TVBR observation: There’s lots of hype about TV “events,” but only a few are truly universal in appeal and the Olympics is as big as it gets. There is something to appeal to everyone and quite a bit that appeals to nearly everyone, even folks who couldn’t tell you what channel ESPN is on in their home. Like President Bush, we’re especially drawn to beach volleyball.