The 2012 London Olympics has so far exceeded NBC’s expectations.
Tape-delayed primetime coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics drew an 18.0 overnight rating on NBC Saturday night, up 8% from Beijing in 2008 (16.6), and up 22% from Athens in 2004 (14.8).
Keep in mind ratings for the telecast did not include the first half-hour. Dating back to at least the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, it has been standard practice at NBC to omit the first half-hour of primetime coverage, which generally earns lower ratings. NBC does the same for the first half-hour of ‘Football Night in America.’
Saturday’s 18.0 overnight is the highest on record for the first night of competition at a non-U.S. Summer Olympics, and the highest for any non-U.S. Olympics since the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics on CBS (21.0).
So far, the first two nights of the London Olympics have had increases in overnight ratings compared to Beijing in 2008. Prior to the Olympics, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said it would be an “unlikely scenario” if the London Olympics managed to match or exceed Beijing.
Salt Lake City led all markets for Saturday’s telecast, with a 23.9 rating. San Diego (22.8), Kansas City (22.4), Columbus, OH (21.5), and Ft. Myers, FL (21.3) rounded out the top five. Of note, the two highest rated markets were not located in the Eastern or Central time zone, and thus received the primetime telecast on an even longer delay.