Andrew Keen: Forget Phelps, this year’s greatest Olympic winner has to be NBC

Back in the late Nineties, many new media pundits scoffed at NBC Universal’s decision to pay $894m (£476m) for exclusive American broadcast rights to this year’s Beijing games. Mass media spectacles on television are yesterday’s news, the pundits all said. In a fragmented media age, these scoffers went on, investing nearly a billion dollars in the broadcast rights to televise a single event was the act of a dinosaur doomed to business extinction.

But for all the success of NBC’s online coverage, the lesson of Beijing is that television unquestionably remains America’s platform of choice for the majority of media consumers. Ninety per cent of viewers of NBC’s Olympic coverage watched the games on television and only 10 per cent watched on the internet. So forget all the hype about the interactive YouTube Olympics, the fragmentation of viewing habits, niche media and the death of television. Ninety per cent of Americans still rely on the original tube. When the revolution happens, it will appear on TV first. Audience for Games Soars for NBC and Yahoo
The extent to which the Internet served as a supplement to television was unprecedented, and there were two clear winners: NBC’s Web site and Yahoo’s Olympics section. Didn’t Cash In on Olympics Video
NBC’s decision to limit the amount of Olympics footage on its Web site has ticked off sports fans. But that decision could also dog the network in another way: will generate just $5.75 million in video-ad revenue from the Games, according to estimates from research firm eMarketer Inc.

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