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NBC Awards Self Gold Medal for Rio Olympic Games Coverage

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No false modesty here: NBC Sports has declared that its presentation of the Rio de Janeiro Games was "the most successful media event in history."

“Our presentation of the Rio Games is the most impressive undertaking in the media world,” boasts NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus.

The network certainly outdid what it offered with previous Games: It streamed 6,755 hours of coverage, allowing authenticated viewers to see any sport they wanted live or on-demand, either through a browser or apps on all major platforms. NBC streamed 3.3 billion minutes of coverage, a number that combines live, on-demand, and highlight video. Streaming viewers watched 2.7 billion minutes of live video, which is nearly double the combined live video minutes of all previous Games (1.5 billion). NBC's online video attracted 100 million unique viewers, a 29 percent increase over London in 2012.

NBC paid $1.2 billion for TV and online rights to the Rio Olympics.

Online viewing was crucial to NBC making a success of these Games, as broadcast ratings were down 18 percent from London, according to Nielsen. The numbers were even worse for young adults: Primetime ratings were down 25 percent for 18- to 49-year olds. This is the year when viewers decided online offerings better suited them, allowing them to watch what they wanted whenever they liked.

That shift to digital should be good for NBC's bottom line: The network charged 50 percent more for online ads than broadcast since online viewers are younger. While it didn’t achieve the broadcast ratings it promised advertisers, it expects to make a significant profit.

"Probably our biggest surprise in the consumption metrics was that more than one-third of those who streamed coverage did so from connected TV devices—meaning those people were in front of their TVs watching the Olympics, but in a different way," Lazarus says. "The final numbers are not in yet, but we already know that the Rio Olympics will be the most profitable Olympics ever for our company.”

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