Michael Phelps' record-setting eighth Olympic Games gold medal delivered the best Saturday-night ratings on NBC since 1990.
An average of 31.1 million viewers stayed home Saturday to watch Phelps and his teammates compete in the mens 4x100 medley relay, as well as gymnastics and beach volleyball. An estimated 70 million viewers watched over the course of the whole primetime program, peaking at nearly 40 million during the 11 p.m. half hour, when the relay was held.
The last time NBC had such success on a Saturday was on Feb. 24, 1990, with Golden Girls spinoff Empty Nest starring Richard Mulligan, which drew 31.4 million viewers.
The Beijing Olympics have so far been a ratings coup for NBC, reaching an estimated 191 million total viewers over the first nine days, more than any other Olympics in the network’s history. Of course, now that Phelps’ record-setting pursuit is over, the ratings for the remainder of the games are far less clear.