Phelps' Run Gives NBC Its Highest Primetime Numbers In 18 Years

Monday, August 18, 2008


I'm still not sure exactly how NBC is tabulating these ratings, but either way, they were huge for Phelps' run at eight on Saturday night. Not only did it crush any other Sport the network has aired, it was the highest Saturday rating since Empty Nest debuted back in 1990. Via Yahoo....

The telecast averaged 31.1 million U.S. viewers, NBC's biggest audience for a Saturday night program since an episode of "The Golden Girls" spinoff "Empty Nest" drew 31.4 million viewers in February 1990, according to Nielsen Media Research data cited by the network.

It was the culmination of an especially dramatic day of Olympic competition, which also saw Phelps' U.S. teammate Dara Torres, 41, lose the women's 50-meter freestyle by a 1/100th of a second to 24-year-old Britta Steffen of Germany. Torres, the oldest U.S. swimmer, ended up with three silver medals.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt grabbed gold in the 100-meter dash after the reigning world champion Tyson Gay of the United States, who suffered a hamstring injury six weeks ago, was eliminated in the semi-finals.

But the dramatic story arc of Phelps, who came away with gold medals in all eight events he competed in, has been the biggest draw for NBC's Olympic coverage.

The network has averaged 30 million viewers in prime time -- on par with the numbers tuning in for "American Idol" -- since the games opened on August 15, and Saturday night's audience peaked at 40 million viewers in the half hour during which the men's 400-meter medley was held.

Through nine days, 191 million viewers have tuned in to at least one six-minute bloc of the Beijing Games on NBC and its various sister cable networks -- 14 million more than for the Athens Games and 5 million more than the Atlanta Games over the same period, NBC said.
First of all, that's just an insanely large amount of people. To put things into comparison, last year's Super Bowl pulled a 43.2 and the only American Idol to ever beat that figure was the Season Two finale (Ruben Studdard won).

Second, 31.4 million people watched Empty Nest?!?! I never knew the Golden Girls spinoff was that popular. RIP Estelle Getty.

Phelps' Olympic feat lifts NBC to 18-year record (Yahoo)

14 Comments:

What, you guys wern't Richard Mulligan fans?

Scott F. said...
Aug 18, 2008, 8:59:00 AM  

Tonight on NBC: Costas interviews Phelps and Park Overall via split-screen.

Anonymous said...
Aug 18, 2008, 10:08:00 AM  

That Charley Leisure guy was pretty popular as Joe Isuzu.

GMoney said...
Aug 18, 2008, 10:39:00 AM  

It's big for the Olympics, but to put it in context, the NFC Championship game between the Giants and the Packers had an average viewership of 54 million with a peak of 65 million, and the Super Bowl was 97.5 million with a peak of 105 million.

jm said...
Aug 18, 2008, 10:49:00 AM  

I thought Charley Leisure's best work was as Dan Patrick.

Anonymous said...
Aug 18, 2008, 11:26:00 AM  

I certainly have been watching. There have been a lot of incredible moments in these Olympics.

Stegg said...
Aug 18, 2008, 11:36:00 AM  

David Leisure was Joe Isuzu.

And Dreyfuss was comedy gold!

My 9 year-old tigerstyle was nerdy.

Andrew said...
Aug 18, 2008, 12:26:00 PM  

"I never knew the Golden Girls spinoff was that popular."

I didn't even know it WAS a Golden Girls spinoff!!

Jay said...
Aug 18, 2008, 3:25:00 PM  

Phelps is a douche. Ask people in B-more who know him.

Anonymous said...
Aug 18, 2008, 6:56:00 PM  

Don't let NBC's hype confuse you. As an earlier commenter said, 31 million is a great number but nothing extraordinary. The 43 you mention is the rating for the Super Bowl, not the total amount of people watching, which I think was at least 80 or 90 million, if not more, for the Super Bowl. The Olympics always used to do really in the ratings, before NBC decided to tape delay everything the previous two Olympics. With Phelps live the past week, they've gone back to what they were in Atlanta--and will drop this week with all taped coverage and no Phelps.

Eric said...
Aug 18, 2008, 11:20:00 PM  

Still baffled Empty Nest was the high rated show on NBC in almost two decades. What about the final episodes of Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld or Johnny Carson's Tonight Show finale?

Just odd.

Anonymous said...
Aug 19, 2008, 12:48:00 AM  

yeah ok eric. that might be your opinion but after many interviews with nbc, he has been kind and gentle to the media and the public.

his 8 gold medals will probably not be broken, in our lifetime.

Anonymous said...
Aug 19, 2008, 12:59:00 AM  

"Still baffled Empty Nest was the high rated show on NBC in almost two decades. What about the final episodes of Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld or Johnny Carson's Tonight Show finale?"

Be baffled no more, Anonymous 12:48. The note in the first paragraph says it was the highest rating NBC had "on a Saturday night" since 1990, not overall.

Anonymous said...
Aug 19, 2008, 1:49:00 AM  

So this does include the Orange Bowl played January 1, 1994?

Anonymous said...
Aug 19, 2008, 2:08:00 AM  

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