BEIJING -- Television executives as a rule are an over-caffeinated bunch. They spit out platitudes with machine-gun frequency and sell their content with the same fervor
The news is good.
More than 196 million viewers have watched the Beijing Games on the networks of NBC Universal through the first 10 days. The coverage has averaged a 17.2 rating thus far, up 9 percent from Athens in 2004 (15.8). Such numbers have helped bolster the ratings for
Even with the robust coverage, NBC's coverage has its critics, from accusations of
SI.com checked in with
Below, Neal addressed a number of topics as the Games entered its final week:
For whatever reason there are certain athletes who become more than just an athlete. There is something about Michael, his story, his fabulous relationship with his mother and sisters. And there is nothing about Michael that is not right out there in front. He is a very open, confident young man and I think those of us who have gotten to know him are just taken by this guy. He's just a good kid but he goes beyond that. He's a great young man who happens to have enormous athletic gifts.
I think the U.S. women's softball team will capture people's attention the second week. It is a team that threw back-to-back no-hitters in the Olympics. It is a compelling story with a great group of athletes. They are in this sort of trag-drama with their sport because, through no fault of their own, they are playing their swan song for the foreseeable future. They don't have a home in the Olympics after these Games.
I don't think we have been playing up U.S. versus China. I think China the country is a natural member of the cast of characters. If you want to say this is an ongoing miniseries here for 17 nights, well, one of the stars would be China. Americans have a natural curiousity about this rising power and this has become part of the nightly story.
This was an enormous win for the American public. It has fueled these historic numbers. You can't overstate how important this was and certainly I think it was a justified decision and a rational one.
We have been clear from the moment this was ever discussed over a year ago. Dick said it. I said it. Others have said it. NBC Sports and NBC Olympics is here to cover the Olympic Games. Anything that happens within a sports venue or anything that affects the athletes or competition we will cover and have covered thoroughly. NBC News is also here in force. They are the country's premier newsgathering organization and they have been vigorous in their reporting with the tragic story of the stabbing of the family of the volleyball coach. I think it is a perception versus reality issue. The reality is we are covering the Olympic Games in the fashion we said we would all along. And NBC News is here being NBC News.
This is a curious one.
I'm proud of the coverage led by
I think the true measure of what has been captured is the ability to provide water-cooler conversation again. My wife is back in New York and when she goes to work in her office, people are talking about Phelps or the gymnastics or things they have seen in primetime. It's that kind of pop culture traction that these Olympics have achieved.
One of the things we saw from Athens, after we made the decision we would be on 24-7 with cable and cover every gold medal final from every sport, was that our researchers said there was a funnel effect. Rather than cannibalizing our primetime coverage, it really had the opposite effect. People who were watching MSNBC or USA Network, something like 80-plus percent of the people also went on to watch primetime on the network. If you stretch the metaphor, we have just made the funnel effect bigger, capturing more people on a more diverse range of platforms. It is the future.
There is no question that Michael is the star of stars in the Olympic world right now. That would be like saying when the NBA season ended 10 years ago, the NBA didn't have someone to replace