Michael Phelps wins 8; NBC wins, too

8-day Beijing audience on track to beat Atlanta ratings

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BEIJING -- On Sunday, the day Michael Phelps won his record-breaking eighth gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, NBC said its networks -- in eight days of broadcasting Phelps' races in primetime in the U.S. -- have reached 185 million viewers.

"He provided the kind of theater that none of us will soon, if ever, will forget," NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas said about the swimmer's historic streak, which broke fellow American Mark Spitz's seven-medal record at the 1972 Munich Games.

Phelps told Costas, "This was everything that I wanted to do, and everything I dreamed of."

China Central Television covered the final live in the morning in Beijing, but did not linger on the victory by the man dubbed "the Flying Fish" here.

The size of the NBC audience by the time the Games end Aug. 24, is on pace to be the most-watched Olympics ever, surpassing even the 1996 Atlanta Games, NBC said.

In eight days, total NBC viewership of the Beijing Games already has topped total viewership for the entire Torino, Nagano and Albertville Games (184 million each).

In the period, NBC averaged 30 million viewers in primetime and a 17.4 rating/30 share, 13% ahead of viewership in the same period in of the Athens Games in 2004, when the opening eight days averaged 26.6 million viewers, NBC said.

NBC spent $894 million for the right to broadcast the Beijing Games and said it has sold more than $1 billion in primetime Olympics advertising.

The American network's costs for broadcasting 3,600 hours from Beijing and supporting a team of 3,000 people around China during the period are unknown. Some senior advertising industry executives here suggest NBC will lose money.

In an attempt to broaden viewership -- and tap new sources of advertising revenue -- NBC partnered with myriad multimedia platform providers. NBCOlympics.com on MSN, for instance, drew 628 million page views in eight days, 12% more than the combined totals for the entire 17 days of the Torino and Athens Games (561 million).
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