Michael Phelps Shines in Record Gold; But Not Live in California

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August 16th, 2008

Michael Phelps Swims To Eighth Gold Medal

Michael Phelps raced for gold a bit after 11pm on the east coast, and what did we get on the West Coast? The Women's Marathon on tape delay. Since it was only like 40 minutes into a two and a half hour marathon would it really have been so awful, to you know, cut live to Phelps coverage for 20 minutes? Apparently NBC thinks it would have been that awful.

I'm feeling pretty put out that the race last night to tie Mark Spitz's record (another dramatic and amazing finish) and tonight's race (which was a relay) weren't broadcast live coast-to-coast. NBC may be correct that the best way to maximize the Nielsen ratings is there way. Though I think they could have had the largest 15 minutes of viewership of the entire Olympics by broadcasting it live, I could be wrong. I'm sure the race will get great ratings (we won't see it in the preliminary overnight report since it ran past 11pm) regardless.

Meanwhile as, me, some commenters and Jeff Zucker himself, the AP's David Bauder has a piece on the likelihood that the ratings have peaked now that Phelps is finished. There's almost no doubt about this, the question is how much will they slide by? They'd already peaked in primetime apparently, even with Phelps still swimming. NBC had cleared 30 million average viewers in primetime Sunday through Tuesday, but by Wednesday had slid under 30 million and by Friday the preliminary number was ~25.5 million. Still fantastic numbers for NBC.

The primetime average for the Athens Games was 24.6 million and the slide would have to be significant (a real possibility) as the Beijing games are currently well ahead of that average.

Such a historic accomplishment from a sports and competition perspective. Eight for Eight, winning gold in every event. Though a couple of events were relays where he was not racing alone, it's still a thoroughly dominating performance that's never happened. I wish I could've seen it live. Congratulations, Michael Phelps.

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