August 13, 2012 / 10:05 PM / 7 years ago

London Olympics biggest in U.S. TV history, despite gripes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC’s TV coverage of the London Olympics was the most-watched television event in U.S. history, attracting some 219.4 million viewers, the network said on Monday.

An NBC sign on the General Electric building in New York October 5, 2009. According to news reports Comcast Corp, the top U.S. cable service provider was in talks to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Despite complaints during the Summer Games of delays in broadcasting popular events until prime time hours, problems with online streaming, and edited versions of the opening and closing ceremony, NBC said that more people watched the 2012 Olympics on television than the 215 million who tuned in for the 2008 Beijing Games.

NBC said that it also smashed records online, winning nearly 2 billion page views and 159 million video streams of its Olympics coverage.

NBC, a unit of cable operator Comcast Corp, paid $1.18 billion for the U.S. broadcast rights to the London Olympics, and executives said earlier this month they expected to break even because of the strong TV ratings.

The network, which showed a record 5,535 hours of sports and ceremonies across multiple broadcast and cable networks and online, said its primetime TV coverage averaged 31.1 million viewers over the 17 nights of the Games.

That made London the most-watched Summer Olympics held outside the United States since Montreal in 1976.

NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said in a statement that the results “exceeded all our expectations in viewership, digital, consumption and revenue.”

After coming under fire on social media for making Americans wait hours to watch the opening ceremony from London, NBC on Sunday streamed the pop music themed closing ceremony live online.

But it came under fire for interrupting its tape-delayed primetime evening coverage of the ceremony on Sunday to show a preview of its new comedy “Animal Practice”.

NBC said some 12.8 million Americans stayed tuned for the commercial free preview episode of “Animal Practice” - one of the struggling network’s new fall TV shows.

NBC later resumed coverage of the later stages of the closing ceremony, but edited out performances by Ray Davies of 1960s band The Kinks, and British band Muse’s rendition of the official London 2012 theme song “Survival”.

Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Leslie Gevirtz

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