Australia's Seven has 'greatest Games ever'

More than 12.2 mil in five major cities watched coverage

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SYDNEY -- The Beijing Olympics were the "greatest Games ever" -- at least for Australian rights-holder the Seven Network, Seven boss David Leckie said Monday.

With a two-hour time difference between Beijing and the east coast of Australia, and a 46-medal tally nearly equaling the nation's Athens haul, the Games provided Seven with a ratings and revenue bonanza.

More than 12.2 million viewers in Australia's five major cities watched Seven's coverage over the 16 days, surpassing the total viewers of the 2000 Sydney Games, according to Seven. The network's primetime share, meanwhile, averaged more than 42% and average viewers were in excess of 2 million each night. While total viewer numbers exceeded those for the Sydney Games, Sydney remains the highest-rated Games ever.

"The Seven Media Group's broadcast of the Games set a new benchmark as the biggest single revenue event in Australian television history," Leckie said.

Seven wouldn't confirm final revenue, but analysts estimate that the Seven Network, its online and complementary broadcast partners -- Yahoo7 and SBS Television, respectively -- and mobile phone partner Telstra Corp., brought in more than AUS$140 million ($122 million) of ad revenue from the Games.

Internet usage also reached record numbers: 4 million video streams were downloaded from the official Yahoo7 Olympics site, and nearly 2.4 million unique users visited during the Games, up more then 400% from Yahoo7's monthly average and more than doubling Yahoo7's estimates of 1 million unique users for the Games.

The opening ceremony drew the biggest numbers for Seven -- a national audience of 3.3 million -- while the closing ceremony had 2.6 million viewers.

Seven, however, will reap only the commercial rewards of the Olympics in the short term, as it relinquishes its role as official broadcaster for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Games.

The Nine Network and paynet Foxtel outbid Seven for those rights, with a joint bid of AUS$117 million ($102 million) last year.
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