Live from London: NBC’s Lazarus “Couldn’t Be More Pleased” with Olympics Production

As far as Twitter junkies and the blogosphere are concerned, NBC’s Olympics coverage has been a disaster. However, amidst the firestorm of criticism, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus has a simple response to his naysayers: scoreboard.

Mark Lazarus

Despite the backlash that has led to the infamous Twitter memes #NBCFail and @NBCDelayed, the Peacock is basking in the glow of record-shattering ratings hauls. Through Thursday, each night of the London Games has drawn higher viewership and household ratings of its 2008 Beijing counterpart, according to Nielsen.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with all of the results on all of our platforms. We’re over-delivering on every measurement,” says Lazarus. “On NBC in primetime, we have beaten Beijing every night and I don’t think any of us expected to be having this dialogue right now. We don’t expect it to necessarily continue every night but the fact that we are in this ballpark and having this conversation is a very pleasant surprise for all of us at NBC.”

Lazarus acknowledged that the network is paying close attention to the criticism flying around the web but considered it a “very vocal minority” and that “the overwhelming majority of users are voting with their clickers and mouses. The silent majority has been with us.”

As far as the tape delay issue, Lazarus stands firmly behind the product.

“We’re in fact mixing innovation and tradition this year with the Olympic Games here in London,” Lazarus added. “We’re archiving the best of these live performances for our primetime show. That’s the tradition: the building of story arcs, context around athletes who are performing. The Olympics are so much more than just a sporting event and we try to show all of that to the American television audience.”

In fact, NBC research president Alan Wurtzel noted that in a survey done of 3,000 viewers on Sunday, 67% said that even if they knew the result of a prime-time event they would still tune in for the tape-delayed broadcast later that same day. The data suggests that, with the Olympics, ‘live’ may be overrated.

Through the first five days of competition, NBC has aired 158.5 live television hours on its main networks – NBC, NBC Sports Network, Bravo, MSNBC, and CNBC – out of a total of 274 hours, meaning that on those networks, 2/3 of coverage has been live event sports television.

The digital platform is also bringing in strong numbers. Through Thursday, NBC had delivered 64 million total video streams, which is a 182 percent improvement from the first five days of the Beijing Olympics – a sign of just how much the online video world has changed in just a slim four-year window. Wurtzel estimated that about 60% of video streams were being viewed on desktop or laptop computers. The rest is coming from smartphones and tablets.

Lazarus also pointed out that NBCUniversal could actually break even financially when all is said and done. The media conglomerate anticipated losing $200 million on the London Games when the deal was struck last year. Now with booming ratings and reported sales increases, the network has made “substantial incremental money.”

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