Nielsen: 2012 Olympics most-watched event in U.S. TV history
August 13th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Nielsen: 2012 Olympics most-watched event in U.S. TV history

Call it #NBCfail if you want to, but the combined networks of NBC Universal managed to turn the London 2012 Olympics into the most-watched event in U.S. television history, according to the number-crunchers at the Nielsen Company.

More than 219 million Americans watched the Games over 5,535 hours of broadcasting on NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, two specialty channels and, Nielsen data show.
The figures eclipse those of the 2008 Beijing Olympics (also on NBC), which were watched by a mere 215 million viewers.

"For 17 days, NBCUniversal has surrounded the American viewer with the London Olympics, which have now become the most-watched event in U.S. television history," Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a release. "There are thousands of dedicated and talented people in London and New York who take great pride in being part of these historic Games and this television milestone."

NBC's online Olympic coverage set records with nearly 2 billion page views and 159 million video streams, according to NBC Sports.
And even though it's been taking heat for cutting away from Sunday's closing ceremony, the network took the gold medal for the night's viewership.

Undoubtedly the sizable audience tuned in to see a ceremony filled with contributions from the likes of The Who, Muse, George Michael, Fatboy Slim and even The Spice Girls. The Hollywood Reporter called the show a "Brit-pop orgy" in its review, noting that the festivities offered something "for every generation of the past half-century or more."

Filed under: television

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    August 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
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    August 17, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. Current Medical Events

    I really enjoyed the whole coverage of the games. Thanks

    August 16, 2012 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. dummy


    August 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lee Evan Tabas

    I really enjoyed the whole coverage of the games.

    August 15, 2012 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
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    August 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sokman

    Women are smarter than men? Were you smoking the violet weed when you analized these statistics? Women are who keep rubbish on tv like the Talk, AI or DWTS. Men routinely watch more educational programming from stations like History or Nat Geo. Who are your women equevalents to Einstein & Hawkins? I believe it is you who needs to buggah off.

    August 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Analyst-

    Violet: what were your studies in statistical analyst study?

    August 14, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Olympics

    after while the same opening and closing becomes flat, but this year i thought it was great! i was glad to see george michael! LOL

    August 14, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  16. Erin

    I hate these statistics because they so flawed. 219 million different Americans did not watch the games. That 219 counts the same people over and over. It's similar to the shows that have performance and results shows in the same week. They'll add the two viewerships together and claim "45 million viewers tuned in!" when really it was 30 million the 1st night and only 15 million of them came back for the next night. Anything that lasts more than one day or night of TV should not count as an "event." Just as those attending the games had to buy tickets to each event independently, the programming on NBCsports is different than the programming on NBC, MSNBC etc.

    August 14, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  17. Violet Weed

    P.S. If you are, like me, a statistical analyst, you'd know that Nielson doesn't know how to correctly interpret data anyway.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  18. Lemon

    NBC shouldn't pat themselves in the back, as we didn't have really a choice(other than not watch) here in the land of the free. American's would freak if they realized how much better the BBC coverage was.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  19. Aardie

    It didn't hurt the ratings that every other network was too cowardly to show any new programming. Was it the most watched closing ceremonies? Regardless, NBC refused to show the whole thing. I wonder how much backlash Animal Practice will get for that. #NBCfail

    August 14, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Violet Weed

      Olympics 2012 ...Most watched?!? I didn't watch it, why would I? It's SUMMERTIME, I'm out doing physical activities in the SUN, when not working inside. Anyway, I think there were FAR more 'most watched' shows than this... like, the coverage of the Vietnam War, Princess Diana's funeral, her wedding years earlier, the Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles or Elvis were on it.... the tsunami in the Pacific Rim regions a decade ago... JFK's shooting and funeral... ad infinitum.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  20. Drew

    Leverage, Breaking Bad, and Hell on Wheels was much better.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  21. Joe English


    August 14, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  22. Mark

    This is the problem with the exclusivity system, we got crappy service that we didn't like but there was no alternative. I couldn't watch coverage on another channel or another web site because they were locked out. So it was #NBCFail but if I wanted to see the Olympics I pretty much had to shut up and watch it on NBC.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • AZGolfer

      Mark, I agree with you. There wasn't anything else on TV that was worth watching. Bob Costas was awfully syrupy most of the time and what was with the 1 hr. history lesson on WW II.? I thought I was watching the History Channel. I thought the opening and closing ceremonies looked like something staged in Las Vegas. I'm glad its over. Congrats to our great athletes though that made it worth watching.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  23. palintwit

    The most watched event in US TV history was Katie Couric's Sarah Palin interview. The whole world tuned in to watch Palin make an ass out of herself. But then again, Sarah Palin makes an ass out of herself just getting out of bed in the morning. Ha ha.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Violet Weed

      Sarah Palin is a multi-faceted, fabulous woman. She was a great governor, only sidetracked from that role by being ased to be the VP. Unfortunately it's fat slobby welfare bums like you who didn't want a woman in that role. It is well know that WOMEN ARE smarter than men, unless they are on WELFARE or looking for GOVT HANDOUTS. Which are YOU after? Buggah off.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      Violet... YOU ARE HILARIOUS !! But just remember, you can take the trash (Sarah Palin) out of the trailer, but you can never take the trailer out of the trash.

      August 14, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  24. Bill

    Sorry, didn't watch one minute of it. It's summer, get your Azzz of the couch, go outside and enjoy the weather while you can.

    August 14, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |

      Wish I could here, but at 10:00 p.m. it's still 92 degrees and still too hot to play outside!!

      August 14, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  25. jesseballew

    If all of the performances on TV can be combined...I'm thinking( The average IQ of The American Citizen being such as it is)that "The Jerry Springer Show" would certainly be a major contender!Just sayin here!

    August 14, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • lazyamerican

      The Jerry Springer Show isn't even on anymore. Take some time away from your cave and join us in 2012.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  26. aaron

    The delay to prime time was not my biggest complaint. I hated the NBC commentary. I found myself yelling at my TV saying shut up you moron (actually used other words). Stupid me, it took me several nights to find the mute key on my remote. From then on it was somewhat enjoyable.

    August 14, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  27. Akahn

    At least the showed all the events and skipped the boring and pointless sob stories of athletes. Though they did skip around from time to time from one event to another, it was at least much better than the NBC tv garbage they tried to spew out. Instead of watching some boring event that the US was playing in, I was able to log on at least at watch fun events of Track and Field regardless of what nations where competing. To me that's the Olympics, not just watching one sided view of only one country over and over. Plus watching the closing ceremonies with the British broadcasters live on the made it fun, compared to what I've heard the NBC tv totally destroyed it...

    August 14, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  28. jobdespair

    most cut television event in U.S. history too. NBC failed all over the place.

    Corporate types... when you have a captive event everyone wants to see you're going to get good ratings no matter what.

    August 14, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  29. Dalcassian

    This is such a load of crap. Obviously when they COMBINE all the events that were televised and their respective viewership, they can claim the most watched. That's ridiculous. What if they were to COMBINE all the episodes of, let's say Baywatch or COMBINE all the episodes of The X Files. What if they COMBINE all the episodes of American Idol, couldn't they then make this same claim.
    This claim is false. I think if you were to look at single television events, the leader would still have to be either Live Aid or the series finale of M.A.S.H.. Sorry NBC, we don't accept your lies.

    August 14, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • watergirl

      I agree, combining all watchers over two weeks doesn't make it most watched. No person sat there and watched every event. As opposed to a one time event like the Seinfeld Finale.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  30. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    The stimulus has saved and created over 7 million jobs. The unemployment rate is 8.3% because the recession is not over and companies continue to lay off workers because they are either not making profits or because they choose to save money by downsizing. O' and by the way, the unemployment rate is still high because the GOT has blocked every jobs bill introduced by the Obama administration. And yes, I agree we shouldn't link politics with the Olympics but the first thing Mitt Romney did when he arrived in London was to play politics by questioning the British Olympic security.

    August 14, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
    • truth


      August 14, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • ^^your brain on drugs

      See, kids, this is what happens when you get all your news from and cnn. The only thing the stimulus did was create more GOVERNMENT jobs. The only thing the GOP is blocking is more stupid stuff that will make things worse. Misinformed idiots like you are how this Chicago mudslinger got elected the first time.

      August 14, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
    • @your brain on drugs

      You are very misinformed. There are less government jobs than in the Bush administration to date. Those jobs were created in the private sector, not in government. I always laugh when they start bragging how Romney saved the Olympics. You know that the government bailed him out too, don't you. See, that's what happens when your brain is on drugs. You don't understand reality.

      August 14, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  31. John

    NBC attempted to mess it up. If felt like with all the Olympics I watched, I did not see anything. I remember being able to watch hours and hours of track and field. I think this year I seen like 6 high jump jumps and just as many pole vaults. I wonder what made more money NBC or the London Olympics?

    August 14, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  32. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Great Britain successfully hosted the Summer Olympics in London, one of the busyest regions of the world, unlike Salt Lake City, a remote and isolated place where some idiot called Mitt Romney helped to organized the Winter Olympics. Congratulations on a job well done Great Britain. Hey Robmoney, the next time you feel the urge to question another country's security, remember how your friend GWB compromised our national security on 9/11. Idiot!

    August 14, 2012 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Yeah, just like Obama said; if you pass my stimulus un-enployment won't go above 8%. Why is it that liberals want to turn everything into politics instead of just enjoying the Olympics for what it was.

      August 14, 2012 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
    • ^^ your brain on drugs

      If they ever create an Olympic event call Dumba$$ Gum-Flapping, you are a shoe-in for the gold medal. How could your logic be so flawed? Meth? Bath salts?

      August 14, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  33. IFM

    Its about time

    August 14, 2012 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  34. Truth

    Pretty easy to do when the other channels were just reruns.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
  35. mmi16

    219 Million divided by 5535 hours of programing is only 396 thousand viewers per hour. Pawltry! on maybe poultry

    August 14, 2012 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  36. alexpdx

    NBC, your record numbers do not reflect viewer satisfaction. Viewers were drawn in by the media and by the performance of our athletes, and unfortunately we had no choice of watching the coverage elsewhere.

    Your coverage was a disgrace.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
  37. The Doug

    Easy to inflate those numbers if you include all those hours across all of those networks. And BTW: The Olympics is made up of hundreds of events. You can't call it a single event.

    August 14, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  38. John

    I think the company who crunched the viewing numbers did it a different way than during the last olympics. It seems they added any network outlet who viewed the games, and that encompassed more people.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  39. RobK

    Who knows why? It sucked NBC. You cut out The Who?!?! Ray Davies?!?! It was only the most watched because we expected it to be something awesome. Not the crap it was. America could not have done it lamer London.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  40. maty

    I dig the Olympics and thoroughly enjoyed both the opening and closing ceremonies. Time delay is just the gust of reality of living in digital world. I'm at work during live time! Great job London.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I had identical thoughts while listening to people go into seizures over the live aspect. Yes, it would be ideal to witness everything live but for most of us it's not feasible. Bravo NBC, London, and the athletes that captivated us the last 2 weeks plus.

      August 14, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • neilleeds

      I'm sure most people were at work, but there are retirees, students, people on vacation, unemployed people, why should they not be able to watch it live. They could still do the primetime bit for the rest of us. Although for a lot of it, it seemed like a one country Olympics as they barely ever showed any other country unless they happened to be in an even with an American in it. You'd think May and Trainer were the only beach volleyball contestants, I don't even recall seeing the other 2 American girls until the final. NBC's TV coverage was a total joke.

      August 14, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  41. ah...

    I've always loved the Olympics, because I am a total sports freak. I thought the opening & closing ceremonies were both kind of flat. I can't believe that they didn't even show the Who in the closing! What were they thinking? Hats off to all our American athletes! They did us proud. One more thing. Those outfits our athletes wore in the opening & closing ceremonies looked so g ay! Bobbysocks, horrible skirts, the blazers sucked. That was Ralph Lauren? Don't hire him to design our uniforms ever again!

    August 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Electra

      The outfits were made outside of America. What do you except from sweatshop labor. Thank the US Government and corporate greed for that. Just saying.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Electra

      And it was Ralph Lauren. They had a whole thing on the news about this.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Huh?

    I have no idea what Ted above is talking about. Last I checked there were hundreds of cable channels to choose from. This is not 1950. We certainly have many other options besides NBC, in addition to On Demand, Netflix, etc. You must have the most basic cable package known to man, or no cable at all, just the digital box because you can't even watch TV without one anymore. I think, believe it or not, people watched the Olympics this year because they wanted to. Pure and simple.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      Huh?.....I believe Ted is referring to the fact that people love to watch the Olympics but had no choice but to watch NBC, not that he thinks there are people out there with tvs that only get one channel. So of course NBC had amazing ratings – what other option was there? Oh and I'm pretty sure the games weren't broadcast on the other "hundreds of cable channels" out there. If only we'd been so lucky. I saw someone comment on #nbcfail that NBC bragging on their ratings was like a dictator bragging on winning an election when his name was the only name on the ballot.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Ted

    Of course NBC is going to have good ratings if people have no other viewing options. Its like bragging about winning a 1-person race.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Jeb

    The closing ceremony was a complete failure: it completely missed the point – the Olympic games are about the athletes, not celebrities

    August 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • pensimmon

      Well, I only recognized a small amount of the music, but I think the ceremony was a celebration party FOR the athletes- who are all young and would most likely be familiar with most of the music. It was a PARTY!!!! I bet they enjoyed seeing the pop stars. And The Who were on, but NBC, in a puzzling decision, chose to stick some new program right in the middle of it. Weird. I thought the whole of the Olympics was fantastic, and send a huge message of congratulations to London. They did it brilliantly. NBC chose not to show some things and there was way too much women's beach volley ball in my opinion. I suppose those people who watch to see women jumping around in bikinis liked it. It seems rather frivolous. Synchronized swimming is too, but at least that wasn't forced on us all the time.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      "The closing ceremony was a complete failure: it completely missed the point – the Olympic games are about the athletes, not celebrities"

      I think its you who's missed the point, the closing ceremony was a party for the athletes and the world to celebrate their achievements.
      That's why they were surrounding the stage the superb performances occurred on, you really need to cheer up a bit and stop whining so much.

      August 14, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  45. Soprano, Megan

    From a Canadian's standpoint...I am over-the-moon that CBC has the rights to the next two games as CTV did a poor job both on the air and online. I mainly watched the American NBC feed and I can assure all of you in the US that it was a THOUSAND times better than CTVs coverage!

    As for the closing ceremonies...I was not overally impressed. A lot of the singers sounded out of tune to me and I was a little confused at times. I'd give it a 6 or a 7 overall.

    August 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  46. foul relish

    The closing ceremony looked like a bomb hit piccadilly circus during a traffic jam. there was no congruency and the coverage was so choppy i dunno what was going on

    August 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Clyde Frog

    I didn't care for the Olympics. They didn't let us frogs even participate. Us WB frogs are more entertaining and can jup higher and farther than the regular network frogs. The WB rules.

    August 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Rutile

    i thought the coverage could have been better if it included more interviews like the women coming to Olympics from other countries for the first time. It was mentioned that every country had at least one woman in their team. Then nothing after that. What did the woman from Saudi Arabia compete in?
    Then the Closing ceremony was cut to force the audience to watcha very ad pilot program instead of the WHO???
    bad planning NBC.

    August 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      The woman from Saudi who ran was not from Saudi, she was from California and since her father was from Saudi Arabia she was allowed to run for them, since she was not fast enough to get on the US team. So, Saudi had no woman running, really.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • r€d d€mon

      @brenda., leave to the middle east to "f" with people. At least we should be thankful she didn't have any bombs attached to her.

      August 14, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  49. zandhcats

    The closing liked a concert to me even though I like most of the singers: David Bowie, George Michael(couldn't recognize him), and my favorite Pet Shop Boys.....Who sang We'll rock you? She totally ruined Queen's master piece!

    August 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  50. mt

    the swimming is my favorite we had the flat screen on in our conf room while having lunch and watched as much as we could

    August 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Jerry

    Who cares NBC did a crappy job with the Olympics and that includes the opening and closing ceramonies

    August 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Sokman

    NBC really blew it on the Olympics coverage. This was one of the least enjoyable I ever watched. But kudos to our athletes. Amid all the scandals this year, the Americans did us proud, & represented USA well.

    August 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  53. paula jablonski

    I did't watch. What's all the fuss?

    August 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Rose Lisa

    I think this Olympics' were more of a circus show

    August 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Simon

    Where the hell were the Rolling Stones?

    August 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Tammy

    Of course they had good ratings. They had a monopoly on the coverage by blocking American internet feed to the FAR SUPERIOR Olympic Coverage the BBC provided.

    Let every network cover the Games and we'll see how their ratings do.

    It was a FANTASTIC show but not because of anything NBC did. They cut and chopped and butchered the coverage so badly it was insulting and disgusting. And THEN they broke AWAY from the ceremonies to air a commercial-free new comedy and came back to it an hr later.

    Poorly done Comcast owned NBC Universal.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  57. markiejoe

    I seriously thought the closing ceremonies were the worst I've seen in my 64 years. The ceremony itself was boringly conceived and poorly executed, and then add to that the fact that the television camera coverage, angles, etc. were very amateurish and did not make for good viewing in any sense.

    But luckily the HD broadcast of the Closing Ceremonies on DirecTV went dark for about an hour mid-way through it, so I didn't have to endure it all. I think somebody smart must have sabatoged DirecTV's transmission.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  58. Teresa

    I did not get a chance to see opening or closing olympic ceremonies. But the pictures on facebook kept me informed and they were beautiful.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Karen

    Fantastic and fun show!

    August 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Tim W.

    Just because people watched it does not make it a good show.......I give it a 7.5 !

    August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |

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