London 2012 was ‘biggest ever US TV event’

NBC’s coverage of London 2012 was the “most-watched television event in US history”, the TV network has announced.

Citing Nielsen ratings figures, NBC said more than 219 million viewers watched the Games on its networks, compared to the 215 million who tuned in for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The network broadcast some 5,535 hours of Olympic coverage on TV and online.

But it drew criticism for delaying the broadcast of popular events until primetime hours.

Viewers also complained of problems with online streaming and edited versions of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sunday’s closing ceremony – which was cut down by almost an hour and omitted such acts as Muse and Ray Davies – drew an audience of 31 million people.

Yet NBC enraged some viewers by leaving the ceremony at 23:00 local time to air a new sitcom, Animal Practice, and then half an hour of local news.

At midnight, the network returned to the ceremony to screen the eight-minute finale by The Who.

NBC was previously criticised for cutting a tribute to victims of the 7 July London bombings out of its opening ceremony coverage.

NBC paid $1.18bn (£751.3m) for the exclusive US broadcast rights to the Games.

Meanwhile, the BBC said its coverage of the Olympics was watched by 90% of the UK’s population and that 51.9 million people had watched at least 15 minutes of coverage.

BBC One controller Danny Cohen said the Games had been seen by the “largest TV audiences since the pre-digital age”.



2012_logo.jpgBritain’s chances of featuring high up the medals tables in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London may be at risk because of uncertainty over funding arrangements for elite athletes, a report warned.The National Audit Office (NAO) said that plans to raise £100 million from the private sector as part of a seven-year £700 million package of support for elite sport may not materialise because of delays in beginning fund-raising and competing demands for sponsorship.And the spending watchdog warned that Government and National Lottery funding for sportsmen and women hoping to compete in the 2012 Games must not be spread too thinly if the GB team is to maximise its medal haul.Following the 2004 Athens Olympics, when the GB scooped nine gold medals, UK Sport adopted a “no compromise” policy of focusing funding on sports and athletes with a real chance of making it to the winner’s podium.

But after London was awarded the Games, the agency and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) agreed a broader goal of funding all Olympic and Paralympic disciplines to a level which would allow them to deliver “creditable” performances in 2012.

As a result, some 16 sports are now receiving money from UK Sport for the first time, and only Olympic football and tennis get no cash.

The NAO report noted that a “step change” in performance by athletes would be required if UK Sport and DCMS were to achieve their goal of fourth place for Britain in the Olympic medal table and second in the Paralympic table in 2012.

And it warned that the new goal “may distract UK Sport’s focus and funding from its primary goal of winning medals”.

To reach fourth place, the GB team would probably have to almost double its Athens tally to 17 golds in London.

“In the light of uncertainty about funding levels, UK Sport should avoid distributing too high a proportion of the extra funding to those sports with no medal potential at the Games,” said the report.

The NAO welcomed the DCMS’s decision to appoint a specialist fund-raising partner, but noted that the post was not put out to tender until November last year, 16 months after the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee identified the need for outside expertise.

It warned that elite athletes would face stiff competition for private sponsorship in the run-up to 2012 from other parts of the event, such as arenas and other new facilities.