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NBC Feeling the Phelps Effect

August 15, 2008 2:51 PM

Michael Phelps may have single-handedly added at least a quarter of a million dollars to the value of the next round of bidding for the Olympic Games, according to analysts.

While I’m not going to jump deeper into this story for the moment, the unexpected ratings success of the Games, thanks in part to Mr. Phelps’ quest for eight gold medals, will beef up the price when bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Games begins this fall.

The dollar value of the event definitely will pass the $2 billion of the most recent contract paid by NBC, and could even surpass the earlier “high” expectations of $2.25 billion for the next round of bidding, according to my sources. More on that in a few weeks.

Mr. Phelps has two more medal races remaining in his campaign to break the all-time record for medals in a single Olympics. His quest has helped NBC’s coverage debut to huge ratings and score a massive win.

Through the first five nights of the Games, the network’s prime-time coverage has averaged a 17.8 rating/31 share and 31.3 million viewers. That bucks recent downward trends for the Games (up 16% from the comparable nights of Athens 2004) and 22% better than the first five nights of Sydney in 2000.

NBC’s prime-time coverage of the Beijing Olympics on Saturday begins at 7:30 p.m. with the final night of swimming, where Mr. Phelps could break Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics by going eight-for-eight in ’08 in the 4x100 medley relay.

If the record is indeed on the line, even NBC’s competitors expect ratings for the Games to shatter recent records.

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