NBC Takes Gold: CEO Calls Olympics Coverage a ‘Tremendous Success’

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NBCUniversal’s big-time investment in the 2014 Winter Olympics is paying off, big time. Though there was speculation that the lofty price tag for broadcasting the Sochi coverage wouldn’t be worthwhile considering TV audiences’ shrinking size, the games have more than doubled NBC’s nightly ratings, and CEO Steve Burke couldn’t be more thrilled.

Bloomberg reports that he views the company’s Winter Olympics coverage as a “tremendous success” and even wrote to his employees in a Tuesday memo: “In 2011 we made a major commitment of over $4 billion for the Olympic games through 2020. The ratings and advertising sales for Sochi are making this look like a wise decision.”

According to Bloomberg, NBC is now averaging 23 million viewers in primetime, and NBC Sports Network is also enjoying record ratings, while 27 percent more people are watching online. The Winter Olympics with events that occurred early in the day for U.S. audiences — the 2006 games in Turin, Italy — generated a smaller number of average viewers.

Thus, NBC is proving that the Winter Olympics aren’t a lost cause for networks, even though reports show less people are now turning on the TV. That might be the case when the big games aren’t on, but when they are, the events are still drawing viewers — and NBC definitely is not complaining. Bloomberg says that the company booked more than $800 million in ad sales from the Olympics while spending $775 million on U.S. television rights. NBC also paid $100 million for the production.

Part of NBC’s success comes from its dedication to catering to consumers’ different preferences. Not only has the network offered 12 hours of live programming daily, it also recognizes that many of its viewers want to watch the games online or via their tablet or mobile devices.

That’s why, according to Bloomberg, NBC put engineers in charge of developing an impressive Olympics website and apps that have now drawn close to 45 million unique visitors, up from the 2010 Games in Vancouver. NBC puts almost every event online and was careful to construct its video clips so they have the ability to easily be shared via various social media outlets like Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

What’s also interesting about NBC’s success is that more viewers are now actually tuning in to its station even outside of its primetime coverage of the Olympics events. Burke said that the network’s daytime, late-night, and weekend ratings have all been higher since the start of the Winter Games, and viewers are evidently showing an inclination to get back into the TV again — at least during the Olympics.

Unfortunately for NBC, the Olympics excitement can’t last forever. The event soon will conclude, but until then, the network will continue welcoming its old and new viewers, and as Burke pointed out to his employees: “Through Sunday, 164 million Americans have watched our Olympics coverage. When we add the consumers accessing our content through nontraditional platforms, more people have experienced these Winter Olympics than ever before.”

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