2012 OLYMPICS: BIGGEST AUDIENCE IN U.S. TV HISTORY
NBC had good reason to thumb its nose at critics of its delayed broadcasts of the top contests of this year’s Olympic Games. The network, which going into the games had predicted that its audience would probably decline about 20 percent from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, actually saw it grow by 12 percent to 219.4 million total viewers, making it the most-watched event in U.S. television history. Averaging 31.1 million viewers per night, it was also the most-watched non-U.S. Summer Olympics since the 1976 Games in Montreal. Alan Wurtzel, the executive who tracks ratings for NBC, noted that the results were especially surprising since the network had been able to broadcast many more events live from Beijing. In fact, going into the games, NBC had set aside a large chunk of time to be used for “make goods” in case it was not able to fulfill ratings guarantees to advertisers. With ratings surpassing those guarantees, the network was able to sell the banked time — often at a premium price to advertisers. As a result, NBC, which had expected to lose around $200 million on its Olympics coverage, may now make a small profit.