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The 2016 Rio Olympics should get a gold medal for online streaming

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Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the first ever to be live streamed simultaneously as the television broadcast, and the results are staggering. The first 10 days of the 2016 Olympics have been streamed online more than the last two Olympics combined.

According to Nielsen, the first 10 days of competition at the 2016 Olympics produced more than 2 billion minutes (33 million hours) of online viewership. Those viewing numbers are more than the 1.46 billion minutes streamed of the entire 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This year’s Olympics more than likely surpassed the last two Olympics’ totals well before the new, as this year’s Olympics surpassed one billion minutes of online streaming after five days.

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NBC first began live streaming the Olympics during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. The hockey gold medal match between Sweden and Finland, on the final day of the Olympics, was the first match streamed simultaneously on television and online. In 2008, Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, told the New York Times he took a picture of the gold medal event broadcasting on a television and streaming on a computer, simultaneously, because he knew NBC would be “on the verge of unleashing the Internet as a coverage platform” for the Olympics.

As the online viewership numbers for the first 10 days have realized Zenkel’s prophecy, television viewership for the games this year is markedly lower than in the past. This year’s Olympic’s marks the first time live prime time Olympic coverage has appeared on channels other than the primary broadcast network, as NBC is also broadcasting prime time coverage of the games on its cable networks NBCSN and Bravo. The average TV audience for the first 10 days of this year’s Olympics was 27.8 million viewers, down 17 percent from the 2012 London Olympics.

With NBC averaging more than 180 million minutes of online viewership per day, the last week of the Olympics could push it past three billion minutes (50 million hours) streamed.