Surprising Trends for Olympic Viewing

NBC research finds intense interest, even when results are known

Archery is a hit on cable.

"It's the new curling," says NBC Sports Research head Alan Wurtzel, making an observation that only a numbers man could truly appreciate.

Curling enjoyed the same intense loyalty and perhaps surprising popularity during the Winter Games.

Archery's 1.5 million viewer average made it more popular even than the U.S. basketball dream team on cable during the early days of the Olympics. Maybe "The Hunger Games" stoked some interest in the sport.

Despite the time difference, and the hash tags, and the "like" buttons leaking spoilers on social media, the first week of the London Games clocked in the biggest crowd of any Summer Olympics in history.

In fact, the popularity of the somehow-irresistible London Olympics seems to be hurting other businesses.

Netflix says its streaming business is down by 25%. London fever is also being blamed for sapping productivity at work, costing U.S. companies more than a billion dollars, give or take, because of Olympic distractions.


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The Chief Technology Officer for the City of Los Angeles even asked city employees to stop watching the Games on line, for fear that cyber chaos might result at City Hall.

NBC also found some evidence challenging the popular belief that people are less likely to watch The Olympics if they already know the results.

Wurtzel says a survey showed that people who watched events live earlier in the day were 50 percent more likely to watch the tape-delayed prime time broadcast than those who didn't. Go figure.

Maybe the most encouraging statistic from NBC's perspective involved the way people are watching. Despite some early glitches and complaints, 75 percent of those surveyed said they had tried out the streaming Olympic coverage on electronic tablets, even if they'd never used their tablets that way before.

And viewing among teenagers was up significantly from Beijing.

"Why is that important?" said Wurtzel. "Because we're cultivating the next Olympics generation."

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