Olympics 2012: European Broadcasting Union Calls Games “Most Watched" Ever

London Olympics Logo NEW - P 2012

London Olympics Logo NEW - P 2012

Europe's public broadcasters enjoyed a ratings bonanza with the London 2012 Summer Games.

COLOGNE, Germany – The London Olympics were “the most watched Olympic Games in history” according to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) the association of European public broadcasters whose members aired Olympic events across all platforms across the continent.

Viewing figures for London 2012 outstripped those of previous games, easily beating out Beijing 2008, the EBU said. It helped that time zone differences were slight across Europe, allowing top events to be viewed in primetime across most of the continent.

Home court advantage as well as the stellar performance of British athletes helped give the BBC Europe’s largest Olympic audience, with the daily peak audience for London 2012 beating out the best day of coverage for Beijing 2008. Aside from the opening and closing ceremonies, which drew 26.9 million and 26.3 million viewers respectively, the BBC’s top figure was the 20 million viewers who watched Usain Bolt win the men’s 100 meter final. The BBC’s peak figure in Beijing 2008, for the same event, was 7.5 million viewers.

Ratings were not nearly as impressive elsewhere in Europe but viewing figures consistently beat those of previous Olympics. In France 34 million people watched at least an hour of Olympic coverage across France Televisons’ four networks France 2, France 3, France 4 and France 0, while the opening ceremonies scored a 27.5 percent market share for France 2, the network’s best performance in seven years.

In Germany, Olympic broadcaster ZDF averaged 3.59 million viewers, or a 24.9 percent share, over the entire London Games,  compared to 22.5 percent and 1.81 million viewers for Beijing 2008.

Spain’s peak Olympic audience was the 5.68 million who tuned it to RTVE to watch Team USA’s narrow victory over Spain in the men’s basketball final.  

"London 2012 has been a triumph for European public service broadcasters,” said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre. “The International Olympic Committee's primary broadcasting objective was to ensure as many viewers as possible were able to experience the Games, and the EBU is honored to have been a part of meeting that objective."

The EBU said use of its live streaming platform Eurovisionsports.TV more than doubled during London 2012 compared to Beijing 2008, with up to 590,000 unique viewers per day and a total of 34 million streams viewed.

Commercial broadcaster Eurosport, which shared Olympic coverage with public networks in several European territories, said it drew an audience of 106 million over all of London 2012. Average viewer figures jumped 80 percent during the Olympics while its site Eurosport.com attracted nearly 5.6 million daily visitors during the Games, a 36 percent jump on its average daily audience.

Eurosport said its most watched programs were coverage of the Athletics events on August 5, 8 and 9, which each drew more than 13 million viewers.