NBC Serves Up Billions and Billions of Olympic Minutes

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August 13th, 2008

I'm writing this as much to achieve some perspective for myself as hoping to share some with you. NBC's numbers are staggering to me.  Perhaps because we've seen nothing like them in the 11 months we've been running this web site.  As a single event, the Super Bowl still eclipses the Olympics, but as an ongoing event, spanning five days worth of ratings data now, we've not seen anything like it.

NBC  has snared 168 million unique, unduplicated television viewers who have watched at least six minutes of coverage. That's more than half the population in the USA over the age of two. The actual number of minutes per person is much more than this, but at least six minutes is the benchmark to be counted.  Just averaging 30 million viewers for primetime (8pm-11pm, 180 minutes) which NBC has done would produce 5.4 billion minutes per night. 

Last Night  (Tuesday) in the final numbers, NBC averaged 34 million people of over 4+ hours (259 minutes) of coverage that extended past midnight.  That's a staggering 8.806 billion minutes of viewing.  By contrast the lowly Wanna Bet had 213.6 million minutes of viewing.  So you'll have to excuse the heck out of me for having trouble getting very excited by 3.6 million minutes for some Jonas Brothers video streaming on MTV's website. 

I'm as excited by the Internet as the next guy (even more excited than the next guy, really), but 3.6 million minutes isn't a rounding error against just the minutes of Olympic viewing for Tuesday night.  I'm kind of a scale whore and always have been.  I love stuff with huge scale. I think my appreciation of it is because it's so rare.  Internet video will achieve huge scale, even on a show-by-show and event-by-event basis.  But it's not there yet.

Meanwhile the NBC mother ship is racking up billions and billions of minutes.  Many of you want to know (because you've asked) is how many minutes the millions  of video streams NBC is getting from the 17.7 million video streams (so far) via the Internet?  Sure, it's going to fare better than the Jonas Brothers, but don't be too disappointed if it's in the neighborhood of a single airing of the lowly-rated Wanna Bet

For this reason, I wasn't too prone to bug NBC for data on this, but, after about the 20th request for the data, I asked my contact at NBC.  He's in Beijing but working (and sleeping) on east coast time, so I will hopefully get the data tomorrow.  If the over/under is 232 million minutes, I'll take the under against the 17.7 million streams, though of course by tomorrow there will be at least several million more streams.  We'll keep you posted.

Please excuse my little homage to Mr. Carl Sagan.  I miss Carl.  I didn't know him personally, but I miss him.  Long ago (going on 30 years) Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage left a very strong impression on me when I was still a teenager. It wasn't the billions and billions thing, it was the curiosity of a very simple question: how can it be so?  It seems like a simple enough question, but a curious mind can go a long way with it.

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