Vancouver Projections: 200 Million Will Watch NBCU's Olympic TV Coverage

Viewership for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver is going to be well, Olympic-sized.
Speaking in round numbers, Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal president of research, suggested that some 200 million viewers will watch at least some portion of the Games, which begin with the opening ceremony on Feb. 12 and finish with closing ceremony on Feb. 28.
Wurtzel, during a presentation detailing some of the programmer's multiplatform research measurement plans and goals for the upcoming Olympics at NBC's offices here Thursday morning, said consumer "intent to view" the Vancouver Games is "huge" and their focus would increase following Super Bowl XLIV, which kicks off Feb. 7.

At that aforementioned level, the Vancouver Olympics would surpass the 184 million unduplicated viewers for the 2006 Games from Torino, Italy and the 187 million who witnessed at least part of the action four years earlier from Salt Lake City. Relative to Winter Games, that would still trail the 204 million unique viewers for 1994 Olympics from Lillehammer, Norway, which benefited from the notorious Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding intrigue.

For the more expansive competitions that are the Summer Games, NBC drew 215 million viewers from Beijing in 2008, a mark that made that quadrennial the most-viewed event in U.S. TV history.

Viewership for Beijing surpassed the 209 million for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, as well as the 203 million for the 2004 Summer Olympics from Athens.

All told, NBCU will present a record 835 hours of Winter Olympics coverage across various TV and advanced media platforms, more than double its 419 hours from Torino.

From a linear TV perspective, NBC is scheduled to show 193.5 hours, CNBC 101.5, MSNBC 100 and USA Network 41. Universal HD will encore the coverage on the "characters" network.

Wurtzel noted that the Olympics are one of the rare events that cut across age groups and enable families to share experiences together. He said that in an increasingly fragmented media world, the response to the Beijing Games, which he labeled a "once-in-a-generation" event, "blew him away."

As to Vancouver's prospects, Wurtzel said: "I'm bullish."