In Depth

Olympic Streaming, While Growing, Pales Next to Broadcast TV

Online streaming of the Olympics has generated massive traffic for NBC, but the Games are still overwhelmingly a broadcast TV event.

That take-away comes not from NBC, but Fox, which on Thursday issued an analysis of numbers that made the case that, whatever gains streaming video has made this year, online viewing is still just a tiny fraction of overall viewership.

According to NBC, there have been 22 million streams of Olympic events through Wednesday night. With an average stream time of 9 1/2 minutes, that translates to about 210 million minutes of streaming time.

By contrast, Fox estimates that, across all NBC Universal broadcast and cable networks, viewers have soaked up a total of 63 billion minutes through the same time frame.

Translation: TV viewership represents 99.7% of all time spent watching Olympic events, Fox says. That's a 300-to-1 advantage for traditional television.

"Bottom line? Broadcast rules," Fox said in releasing the information.

Fox based its analysis in part on reporting by Web site TVBytheNumbers.com, which picked up on data showing that the average time viewers spent watching an Olympic stream so far is about 9 1/2 minutes. That's more than three times the length of the average Internet stream.

While TV still accounts for the vast majority of time spent watching the Olympics, the overall audience for Internet streaming is a bit less lopsided.

According to NBC, the total audience for all Olympic broadcasts Tuesday was 96.8 million people on TV and 7.7 million on the Internet. That means about 92% of the audience for the Olympics came from TV viewers.

Once total viewing time for both TV and Internet streams are factored in, however, the Internet’s share of the pie becomes much smaller.