Forty Million in USA Watch Phelps Record-Breaking Eighth Medal; Total US Reach up to 191 Million People

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August 17th, 2008

Michael Phelps Swims To Eighth Gold Medal

Michael Phelps was but a four year old lad the last time NBC had such a good Saturday night. Although I haven't seen the overnight numbers for Saturday primetime, the numbers I most wanted to see happened just outside of primetime anyway the medley relay where Michael Phelps earned his eighth gold medal. 

Fortunately for us, the NBC press release machine is in full-swing from Beijing and releasing numbers even on the weekend. NBC reports that it averaged 31.1 million for the night and that audience peaked at 40 million viewers in the 11:00pm-11:30pm half hour which is outside of primetime.

With numbers like that, it's not hard to understand why NBC didn't care what I thought when it came to airing the 4x100 medley relay live throughout the country.  NBC didn't do that and the ratings didn't seem to suffer.  Especially since through nine days the West Coast time zone has a better household rating/share than the east coast, it's hard to argue with NBC over the delays.  As much as I'd like to argue, the numbers on the time zones (scroll way down) speak for themelves.

Further, total viewing is now up to 191 million in the US who have watched at least six minutes of coverage of the games after nine days.  They added an additional six million new viewers just yesterday. Especially since last night's primetime coverage included pretty much a footstep-by-footstep view of over two hours worth of the women's marathon (I was decidedly not captivated), the numbers are very impressive.   Here's the full, data-laden press release from NBC (this time with info on top local markets, too).


      31.1 Million Average Viewers Watch Michael Phelps Win 8th Gold of Games

      191 Million Watch Beijing Games in Just 9 Days; More Than 17-day Totals for Salt Lake & Sydney

      BEIJING -Aug. 18, 2008 -NBC's broadcast of the Olympics last night was the most viewed Saturday night program (31.1 million) on NBC since 1990, when Michael Phelps was four years old. On the night when Phelps, now considered the greatest Olympian of all-time, won his unprecedented eighth gold medal of these Games and record 14th career Olympic gold medal, the audience peaked at nearly 40 million viewers in the 11:00 p.m. half-hour during the Men's 4x100 medley relay.

"The mystery of China combined with the unbelievable phenomenon of Michael Phelps, the terrific performances by gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson and defending Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh at beach volleyball have captivated the imagination of the country," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics and Executive Producer of NBC's Olympic coverage. 

NBC's 31.1 million viewers for last night's broadcast represents the best Saturday night viewership of a program on the network since Michael Phelps was four-years-old. The "Golden Girls" spin-off "Empty Nest" starring Richard Mulligan drew 31.4 million viewers on Feb. 24, 1990. 

  • Through nine days NBCU has reached 191 million total viewers, 14 million more than the first nine days for Athens (177 million) and 5 million more than the Atlanta Games (186 million), which was the most viewed television event in U.S. history. The nine-day total for these Games now surpasses the final overall 17-day viewership totals for the Salt Lake City (187 million) and Sydney (185 million). 
  • NBC's Beijing Olympic nine-day average primetime viewership is 30.1 million, 15 percent ahead of Athens in 2004 (26.2 million). NBC's average of 17.4 rating/30 share is the best through the second Saturday for a Summer Olympics outside the U.S. since Barcelona in 1992 (18.6/35) and is a 10 percent jump from Athens in 2004 (15.8/28). 
  • Saturday night garnered 70 million total viewers in primetime and 31.1 million average viewers, a 38 percent gain from the comparable night in Athens (22.5). The night earned a 17.6 rating/32 share, which represents a 29 percent increase (13.6/26).  

THE PHELPS PHENOMENAN: Michael Phelps, over the last nine days has become the most decorated Olympian in history and the biggest star in the Beijing Games to date.  NBC's broadcast peaked last night with 39.9 million viewers during the 11:00 p.m. half hour, as the U.S. team won the 4x100m medley relay, giving Phelps his eighth gold medal of the games. Below is what NBC's Bob Costas, Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines have said about Phelps: 

COSTAS: "What Phelps provided in Beijing was more than just sustained excellence. He provided the kind of theater that none of us will soon, if ever, forget."

HICKS: "That is the kind of feat that just may never be surpassed and certainly one of the greatest feats of sports history."

GAINES: "The sport of swimming will never be the same. The name Michael Phelps will be synonymous with perfection."


Through nine nights, the metered market averages (56 markets) for NBC's Beijing Olympics are a 19.3 rating/34 share.  Below is a breakdown by time zone:

  • Eastern Time Zone:      18.6/33
  • Central Time Zone:      19.4/33
  • Mountain Time Zone:     22.7/41
  • Pacific Time Zone:      20.3/39


  • 1. Salt Lake City:      24.7/48
  • T2. Minneapolis:  24.5/45
  • T2. Denver:       24.5/45
  • 4. Baltimore:           23.5/39
  • 5. San Diego:           23.3/44
  • T6. Indianapolis: 22.8/40
  • T6. Oklahoma City:      22.8/36
  • 8. Nashville:           22.6/36
  • 9. Columbus:            22.4/39
  • 10. West Palm Beach:    22.0/36
  • 11. Phoenix:            21.0/39
  • 12. Portland:           21.5/44
  • 13. Sacramento:   21.4/40
  • 14. St. Louis:          21.3/35
  • 15. Austin:       21.1/36
  • 16. Washington DC:      21.0/37
  • T17. Los Angeles: 20.5/38
  • T17. San Francisco:     20.5/42
  • 19. Kansas City:  20.3/35
  • 20. Louisville:         20.0/33 

TAMI FOR FRIDAY: The TAMi (Total Audience Measurement Index) measures the 3600 hours of programming during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including Television (P2+ reach), Online (Unique Users), Mobile (WAP unique users and Mobile VOD unique users) and TV VOD (unique users).  Below is the TAMi measurement through Friday, Aug. 15: 

Friday, Aug. 15:  95.0 million

  • TV: 86.5 million, ONLINE: 7.9 million, MOBILE: 584k, TV VOD: n/a
  • Thursday, Aug. 14:      101.4 million
  • Wednesday, Aug. 13:     100.9 million
  • Tuesday, Aug. 12: 105.0 million
  • Monday, Aug. 11:  103.1 million
  • Sunday, Aug. 10:  113.0 million
  • Saturday, Aug. 9: 97.8 million
  • Friday, Aug.  8:  74.6 million


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