Programming

London Olympics: NBCU 'Surprised' by Better-Than-Expected Viewership

Lazarus says some of the criticism is 'fair;' majority of viewers are satisfied 8/02/2012 12:54:18 PM Eastern

In the wake of the criticism that has been hurled at
NBCUniversal for its coverage of the 2012 London Olympics, the record
viewership throughout the first week of the Games has even NBC Sports execs shocked.

"We're surprised by these results and [none of us] really
expected this kind of overall performance at this point," said NBC Sports
Group chairman Mark Lazarus Thursday on a conference call with reporters.

Through the first six days of the Games, the ratings have
outpaced Beijing every night,
although that's a trend Lazarus doesn't think will continue. "We don't
expect it to continue every night, but the fact that we're in this ballpark and
having this conversation is a very pleasant surprise."

Lazarus fired back at the criticism that NBCU has taken over
airing events on a tape-delay in primetime. "Some of it is fair, and we
are listening," he said, but pointed out that through the first five days,
NBCU aired 158.5 hours of live coverage -- out of a total of 274 hours -- on
its networks. "More than 2/3 of our coverage has been live." He also
said that every event is made available live through online streaming.

"With the time difference [London
is five hours ahead of the Eastern Time zone], there is no way for us to show
live-action in the U.S.
in primetime," said Lazarus. On the editing of the tape-delayed events,
Lazarus said that it's "tradition" for NBC to build story arcs and
context around the athletes. "The Olympics are so much more than just a
sporting event, and we try to show all of that." He said that the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro will allow for more live coverage, because it is in a similar time zone.

On the problems that many have had with the online
streaming, Lazarus said "we knew it wouldn't be perfect and we said that
before the Games... No one has ever done this amount of simultaneous live
streaming before."

Lazarus also took time to "clarify" remarks made
by NBCU CEO Steve Burke, on Wednesday, about NBCUniversal breaking even for the
Games
. "We had anticipated losing around $200 million when the Comcast-NBCU
deal closed," said Lazarus, who then said that ratings and sales increases
have made "significant incremental money" and will now come close to
breaking even.

"We believe we're doing everything we can to satisfy
the majority of our viewers and the results bear out," said Lazarus.

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