NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said executives have been surprised by the soaring ratings for the London Games, which are topping the 2008 Beijing event by wide margins and helping NBC open up more inventory for ad sales.
He also indicated Thursday that NBCU does not plan to deviate in future Games from its strategy of airing events on a tape-delayed basis in prime time, when time differences are an issue.
The big London ratings no doubt provide some validation to its approach.
With ad sales coming in better than expected before the Games, advertisers signing up now means that NBCU can reduce potential levels of makegoods. Lazarus said that unlike previous predictions of a $200 million loss, the London Games will come close to breaking even. “No qualifiers,” he said.
“There’s a small chance … we can make a little bit of money -- we’ll know over the next couple of weeks,” Lazarus added later on a conference call.
With ad sales, he said NBC is “overdelivering” on performance in every daypart, while the same goes for the NBC Sports Network, Bravo, MSNBC and CNBC.
On ratings, Lazarus said NBCU isn’t necessarily expecting them to continue at such a strong pace, but “the fact that we’re in this ballpark and having this conversation is a very pleasant surprise.”
The reasons for the success, Lazarus said, include top performances by U.S. athletes, a strong promotional push pre-Games and a “desire across the country for people to root for a common cause.”
There have been some issues with the live streaming on NBCOlympics.com with buffering and interruptions, but Lazarus said he believes “most of these issues are gone.”
In prime time, the strategy continues to be to craft a compelling show, as “the Olympics are so much more than just a sporting event.”
Early Thursday, NBCU research chief Alan Wurtzel said household NBC prime-time ratings over the past five days had brought a 19.5 -- 10% above Beijing, where some marquee events were seen live in prime time.
He said there have been 64 million video streams across digital platforms, a 182% increase over 2008. Of those streams, about half have been streams of live events; NBCU is also making every event available live online. Apps for the iPad and iPod have helped boost digital usage. The women’s gymnastics team final was the single most-streamed event (1.5 million streams), according to comScore.
Ratings have also been strong among teens, Wurtzel said, where ratings are up 28% versus Beijing. Wurtzel attributed some of that performance to interest generated via digital platforms.
Archery is doing surprisingly well with an average of 1.5 million viewers, making it the highest-rated sport on the cable networks on average.