Yahoo Wins Olympics Gold, Curling Drives Search

NBC Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010

Yahoo took gold in the online Olympics ratings, beating out NBC handily in total audience. The Web portal's Olympic site drew 32 million unique visitors during the 17 days of the Winter Games, compared to 19 million each for NBCOlympics.com and ESPN.com, according to comScore.

Yahoo Sports as a whole benefited from the Olympics-driven traffic surge, attracting 40 million users during the event. Because of its larger audience, Yahoo was also tops in overall time spent, at 314 million minutes to NBC's 218 million.

But the Peacock Network, which again broadcast the Games on TV and offered exclusive content on its Olympics site, claimed some engagement-related victories of its own. NBC averaged 11.5 minutes per visitor during the event compared to 9.7 for Yahoo, and 17.8 pages per visitor to 7.3 for Yahoo.

Based on internal reporting from Omniture, NBC last week said it served more than 45 million video streams from the Olympics and doubled its page views over the 2006 Winter Games to 710 million. Four years ago, the network said it had only 310 million page views and served only 8.4 million streams.

NBC's internal figures also showed a total online Olympics audience of 46 million -- more than double the comScore number. "Internal numbers, as you can imagine, can be wildly inflated," said a Yahoo spokesperson of the higher NBC estimate.

Taking the broader view, content delivery network Akamai said it provided more than 5,000 hours of live and on-demand video during the Games to a dozen broadcast partners, including NBC and Yahoo. At its peak, on Feb. 28, when the U.S. played Canada for the hockey gold medal, Akamai served 2.4 million pages per second. Not surprisingly, the bulk of that traffic came from North America and Europe, the regions that dominate winter sports.

Who were the online Olympics stars? Telegenic U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn was the most searched-for athlete on Yahoo -- and curling, the unlikely hit of the Vancouver Games, was the most-searched sport. Searches on esoteric queries like, "how heavy is a curling stone" and "why does Apolo Ohno yawn" were also very popular, according to Yahoo. Who doesn't know how much a curling stone weighs?

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