RSS
NBC's historic Olympic coverage: By the numbers
Forget all the griping on Twitter — Americans tuned into the traditional network to watch, and watch, and watch this summer's London Games
Star swimmer Michael Phelps: Despite all the complaints, NBC's coverage of the London Olympics garnered the highest American TV viewership in history.
Star swimmer Michael Phelps: Despite all the complaints, NBC's coverage of the London Olympics garnered the highest American TV viewership in history.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
I

t's no secret that Americans took to tweeting en masse to bitch about NBC's failure to cover the London Olympics to the Twittersphere's liking, but that didn't stop far more Americans from watching NBC's efforts — tape delays, glaring jingoism, and Bob Costas' rumored facelift aside. According to Nielsen, a record-smashing 219.4 million Americans tuned in to watch Gabby and Michael and Usain compete, making the London Games the most-viewed event in U.S. television history. Here's a look at some numbers underpinning NBC's success:

219.4 million
Total number of U.S. viewers of NBC's London Olympics coverage

215 million
Total number of U.S. viewers of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the previous record-holder

5,535
Hours of Olympics coverage NBC broadcast over 17 days

2,000
Hours of U.S. TV coverage of the Beijing Olympics

9
Channels that NBC Universal used to broadcast the games, including NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, two HD-enabled channels, and a 3D channel. 

40.7 million
U.S. viewers of the London Games opening ceremonies, an Olympic record 

5 million
Comments about the opening ceremonies on Twitter and other social media, according to Bluefin Labs

31 million
U.S. viewers of the London Olympics closing ceremonies

31.1 million
Average U.S. viewership of London Olympics during prime time

27.7 million
Average U.S. viewership of the Beijing Games during prime time, 12 percent less than this year

39.9 million
Americans who watched the 2012 Grammy Awards

39.3 million
Americans who watched the 2012 Oscars

37.8 million
Americans who tuned in to watch President Obama being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2011

41.8 million
Americans who watched Ronald Reagan's first inauguration in 1981

33.2 million
U.S. viewers of Princess Diana's funeral in 1997

22.7 million
U.S. viewers of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding in 2011

13 million
U.S. viewers of NBC's debut of its show Animal Practice, aired at the tail end of the London Games closing ceremonies

2.2 million
U.S. viewers of the series premier of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, featuring "Georgia's backyard version of the Olympics: the 'Redneck Games.'" 

Sources: AFP, AP, Daily Mail, Hollywood Reporter, Nielsen Wire, Orange County Register, TV By the Numbers (2), Variety, Washington Post

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week