A general view of the stadium as a Union Jack is formed during the Closing Ceremony © Gallo Images

2012 Olympics most watched event in US history

The 2012 Olympics was the most watched television event in US history, attracting 219.4 million viewers over the 17 days of coverage, according to figures released on Monday by broadcaster NBC.

The audience topped the previous high of 215 million viewers set for the 2008 Beijing games.

The achievement appeared to justify, at least financially, the controversial decision by US broadcaster NBC to show many of the most popular competitions in delayed highlight form at prime time, rather than on live TV.

According to Nielsen, the tape-delayed broadcasts had a nightly average audience of 31.1 million, while the closing ceremony drew 31 million.

Given the positive ratings, NBC, which paid 4.4 billion dollars for the broadcast rights through 2020, might actually make a profit on the London Olympics.

"With ratings and sales increases, we will now be around break even - no qualifiers," NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's a small chance that we can make a little bit of money. We'll know over the next couple weeks."

Olympics coverage has often been a loss leader for US television networks, with the rights holder in the red for the event but benefiting from the promotion of its regular programming to Olympic viewers.


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