NBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Games clearly sits at the very far right-hand side of The Curve: it's high-end production by the best producers, directors and announcers (especially Al Trautwig) in television.
Now, I've been reading a lot of interesting articles about NBC's ratings success with these Olympic Games (including this terrific piece in MediaWeek) ... and, well, here's a quick thought about a yet unmentioned factor that I think may be helping to drive Olympic viewership:
Combined with all the usual suspects for what's driving the ratings, such as great stories (Michael Phelps and Dara Torres, et al), the early success of the American athletes, America's curiosity (and fear) about China's rise as a super power, NBC's use of the web (finally!) to help drive interest, and the network's outstanding production/coverage — I would add one more possible factor: Flat-screen TVs.
With the proliferation of flat-screen TV's it's now almost impossible to walk into any business establishment that doesn't have a TV monitor. And we're not just talking bars but restaurants, grocery stores, auto-shops, building lobbies (business and residential) — you name the place, flat-screens are there, and right now almost all of them are tuned to the Olympics.
And I'm not just talking in the major cities.
While that out-of-home viewing doesn't show up in the ratings (Nielsen doesn't measure it), I think the ubiquity of flat-screens — which translates into the ubiquity of Olympic video — it's doing two things:
(i) it's promoting the sense that the Olympics are "event" television, and
(ii) the flat-screens are acting as a thread that's stitching together all of the atomized elements of modern day communication — the web, blackberry's, iPhone, mobile feeds, etc. — through which individuals are getting information about the Games.
If people were just getting their own feeds, there wouldn't be the same feeling about the Games. Watching on TV — with other people, or even just at the same time that you know millions of others are also watching — provides a sense of community and allows for the water-cooler conversation that's critical to driving continued interest in the Games over the two weeks of competition.
The world is Flat-screened.
And that's a good thing for NBC's broadcasts of the Olympic Games.