NBC shrugs off Olympic fears as coverage raises $1bn
NEW YORK - NBC Universal, the US TV network, has generated more than $1bn (£524m) in revenues from the Olympics, dispelling fears that the slowdown in the advertising market will dampen its huge investment in the Beijing Games.
The group's decision to air a record 3,600 hours of coverage led some to suggest it might be over-exposing itself to the impact of worsening economic conditions and a weakening in advertising spend, particularly by automotive and financial services groups.
A month before the Games, 15% of its Olympic ad slots were unsold, raising concerns about the pricing it would receive for its coverage, which is spread across channels including its flagship NBC network, Telemundo, CNBC and MSNBC.
There were also worries that doping scandals, pollution and China's human rights record might deter some advertisers.
However, audience figures released by NBC and other rights holders around the world suggest networks are generating bumper revenues from the Games.
NBC said 114m viewers had tuned in to its coverage over the first two days, which was boosted by the impressive opening ceremony and the success of US swimmer Michael Phelps, who is bidding to win the most ever gold medals at one games.
The average audience during the opening ceremony was 34.2m, 35% above the number that watched the Athens games in 2004.
The group paid $894m for exclusive US broadcast and online rights to the games. In 2004, the group reported revenues of $900m for the Athens Olympics.
European broadcasters also pulled in large viewing figures, but the time difference with Beijing, which resulted in the ceremony being aired at lunchtime, meant that many drew smaller audiences compared to the opening of the Athens Games.
In the UK, the opening ceremony on BBC One was watched by 4.9m viewers, down from 7m four years earlier.
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