Despite online furor, NBC's Olympics ratings doing well

Rita Wieber, Jordyn Wieber, Matt Lauer, Ryan Lochte and Ileana Lochte, U.S. Olympic hopefuls attend NBC TODAY Show on May 8, 2012 in New York City.

Jeff Horwich: This morning, NBC and Twitter apologized to the journalist whose Twitter account was suspended after a tirade against NBC's coverage of the Olympic Games. Despite the furor over tape delay and spoiled surprises, for NBC's bottom line, the Games are turning out better than expected.

The network said today it's on track to break even on its Olympics coverage. The network had expected to take a loss. Marketplace's Amy Scott is here live. Hi Amy.

Amy Scott: Hi Jeff.

Horwich: So has this #NBCfail business been overstated or what?

Scott: Right, that is of course the hashtag or keyword that people are using on Twitter to complain about NBC's coverage. They say that the live streaming online has been unreliable, and of course it's only available to cable subscribers.

But I talked earlier with analyst Brad Adgate at Horizon Media, and he says if you step outside the whole social media echo chamber, people are still watching.

Scott Adgate: You know I think it's being magnified because of social media. Everyone has a bully pulpit now to express their thoughts and opinions. And clearly, you look at the numbers, and this strategy seems to be working for NBC.

And Adgate says those numbers are surprising. Ratings so far have been better than the 2008 Games in Beijing, when NBC did show some live events. The network says it sold more than a billion dollars in advertising, and that's a little more than it paid for the online and broadcast rights.

Horwich: So some of us are finding that despite our best efforts, it's basically impossible to avoid results during the day. Why do people still want to watch something that happened hours ago?

Scott: Well NBC promoted the Games for months in advance. There's also still a lot of drama -- the personal stories of some of the athletes. But Adgate says this is also sort of a slow time for other sports. And you know, the fact is, a lot of people still watch television at night, and this is what's on.

Horwich: Marketplace's Amy Scott, thanks.

Scott: You're welcome.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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