Beijing Games attract record viewers

The Beijing Olympics will become the most viewed Games in their 112-year history, boosted by a hugely popular Internet platform, the IOC said yesterday.

The IOC said viewing figures in key regions, including the United States, were very promising and would eclipse past records set at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

"The Beijing Games look set to become the biggest broadcast event in Olympic history," IOC director of TV and marketing services Timo Lumme told reporters.

"Ratings are higher than for any Olympics before."

The Games opening ceremony on August 8 has already gone down as the highest sports related broadcast event in China with a record 840 million viewers and is expected to have been seen by more than 1.2 billion people worldwide when final figures come in.

Lumme said US broadcaster NBC, which holds exclusive rights for the United States having paid nearly $900 million, also recorded its largest Saturday night audience in 18 years when it broadcast US swimmer Michael Phelps's record-breaking eighth Olympic gold medal winning swim.

"That had an audience of 40 million (in the United States)," Lumme said, adding that the Beijing Games would even eclipse overall US ratings of the Atlanta 1996 Games which attracted many American viewers due to the convenient competition times and because of home support.

Ratings were also promising in many other countries including Britain, already with their biggest gold medal haul in a century, and India which won their first ever individual gold at the Beijing Games.

The IOC, eager to stem a rise of the average age among its Olympic TV viewers, has launched an Olympic channel on the video-sharing site YouTube, offering daily compilations of clips.

Lumme said the use of the Internet for Games broadcasts, which at the Athens Games was still in its infancy, has been a major success, with the website alone recording 30 times more video views than in Athens, viewing more than 22 million clips.

The IOC's own website had recorded more visits in the first week of the Beijing Games than throughout all of the Athens Olympics.

The IOC has yet to sign contract deals for the 2014-2016 Games package.

"The interest globally for the Olympics is growing," Lumme said. "This is because now there are many more media platforms available."


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