Reports of any significant TV demise of the Olympics during the Rio Games were greatly exaggerated.
That is especially true in Western New York.
Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, tied for 19th place among 56 affiliates that measure overnight ratings via meters.
And that’s despite living in an area where many potential Olympic viewers have access to Canadian live coverage via CBLT, the local CBC affiliate in Toronto.
According to my unofficial results, Channel 2 averaged a 15.9 rating for the 17 nights of NBC’s prime time coverage. That was down about 4 percent from the 16.5 average for the London Games in 2012.
The ratings in the Buffalo market were 10 percent higher than the 14.4 rating that NBC averaged nationally over the 17 nights.
And if you remove the relatively lower ratings for the opening and closing ceremonies here for Rio compared to London, the audience on the 15 nights of competition was almost the same here as it was for the games in England.
Considering how much the TV landscape has changed in the past four years with more streaming options like Netflix, the 4 percent drop here is minimal.
Of course, Channel 2 does have an advantage in that the demographics of WNY tend to be somewhat older than parts of the nation and have fewer millennials who nationally were less likely to watch.
Additionally, led by Simone Biles, Allyson Felix, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and others, the United States team dominated the competition with a near record haul of medals.
NBC's coverage had the usual complaints, the primary one being that too much of it was delayed after people knew who won.
However, the strong ratings for gymnastics competition -- which was held in the afternoon but carried on NBC hours later in prime time – pretty much proves NBC’s contention that knowing if an American is going to win or perform well actually increases the audience.
It isn’t like NBC was hiding who won. It streamed every event live and anchor Lester Holt announced every night who the big winners were on NBC’s Nightly News about 90 minutes before prime time coverage began.
The network also was fortunate that the one-hour time difference between Rio and London meant it could carry so many swimming and track and field events live.
NBC assuredly will do more research to see if any of the coverage complaints require changes in future Olympics. But in a Monday release, the network was gloating about how well everything went.
NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus called the Rio Games “the most successful event in media history.”
He noted that the Rio Olympics was the first in U.S. media history to carry live events on NBC’s other cable channels while NBC was carrying its prime time program.
“But by putting events—for the first time ever in prime time--on NBCSN, Bravo, and at times USA Network, as well as streaming prime time in pattern, we learned a lot about consumption habits and attracted new audiences,” said Lazuras in the release. “We’ll use all of the data from all of our platforms to develop our plans for PyeongChang in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020.”
“Our streaming on the NBC Sports app and on NBCOlympics.com… was the largest streamed event in history, surpassing the previous highs for any event. Our end result will be well over 3 BILLION minutes streamed, shattering anything previously in the category. We monetized our streaming at a very high level, and will continue to develop more ways to monetize this ever-growing method of consumption. Probably our biggest surprise in the consumption metrics was that more than 1/3 of those who streamed coverage did so from connected TV devices—meaning those people were in front of their TV’s watching the Olympics, but in a different way. The final numbers are not in yet, but we already know that the Rio Olympics will be the most profitable Olympics ever for our company.”
I’m not as surprised as Lazuras that so many people have learned how to move streams from their computers to their televisions. Heck, I’m a technological idiot and I learned to do in in five minutes.
As more people learn how to do it and watch lives streams, I suspect the complaints about delayed prime time coverage will diminish.