NBC Celebrates Olympics Results, Others Beg to Differ

The first online audience numbers for the 2010 Winter Olympics are coming in, and NBC (s GE) is ready to celebrate: The network served 45 million video streams from the games, according to data it obtained from Omniture, and NBCOlympics.com doubled its page views compared to the 2006 Winter Olympics.

However, not everyone is ready to go join NBC’s victory party. The network restricted access to its online live coverage to paying cable, satellite or IPTV customers this time around, and these restrictions may have seriously hampered its ability to leverage its exclusive rights for the games online. Not only did other sites get a bigger audience, but a number of indicators seem to suggest that NBC’s audience by and large wasn’t too happy about the restrictions either.

NBCOlympics.com clocked 710 million page views and 46 million unique visits during the games, and the site served up 45 million streams. That’s obviously more than during the last Winter Games, when it saw 310 million page views, 13.3 million uniques and only 8.4 million streams. However, it’s a far cry from the Beijing Olympics, during which NBC served 1.24 billion page views.

Granted, Summer Olympics tend to be much more popular, but NBC’s numbers also indicate that the network didn’t make video work as well this time around: In 2008, it served 9.9 million video hours while clocking 51.0 million unique visits. This year, the network’s Olympics site served only 3.5 million hours, despite having only slightly fewer uniques (46 million).

Meanwhile, Yahoo (s YHOO) continues to celebrate the fact that it had a larger audience despite not having access to any of the content NBC exclusively licensed. The company told us today that its coverage of the Olympics brought in 18,189,052 unique users during the second week of the games, compared to 9,779,440 uniques for NBCOlympics.com and 10,265,008 uniques for ESPN (s DIS), according to comScore (s SCOR) data. Yahoo and ESPN already boasted a bigger audience than NBCOlympics during the first week of the games.

NewTeeVee readers voiced their dissatisfaction with NBC’s online game coverage in our admittedly completely unscientific online poll about the subject last week, where 47 percent said that the network’s online authorization requirements were “very frustrating.” Only 10 percent stated that they’d successfully watched live coverage of the games on NBCOlympics.com, whereas 11 percent said they tried and failed to register. 14 percent said they didn’t watch any online coverage of the games due to not having cable or satellite subscriptions, and 10 percent said they managed to get access to unauthorized streams via P2P clients or proxy servers.

Our readers apparently weren’t the only ones not happy about NBC’s job. New data from Trendrr reveals that the Olympics were a hugely popular topic on Twitter in recent weeks, provoking hundreds of thousands of tweets during competitions like the hockey game between the U.S. and Canada on February 28th.

However, that excitement didn’t translate into any warm and fuzzy feelings for NBC. Tweets about the broadcaster were largely expressing more negative than positive sentiments throughout the games (Trendrr calculates sentiment using an advanced Bayesian probability).

Even politicians seemed to be unhappy about NBC’s handling of the event. The NY Times reported last Friday that Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) has sent a letter to NBC CEO Jeff Zucker asking him to explain the rationale behind the registration wall. The letter expressed concerns that this could be a sign for “what is to come with respect to TV programming shown on the Internet.”

Stay tuned for more data about the Olympic games on various video sites later this week.

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