NEW YORK American sports fans are turning to the Web to follow the 2008 Summer Olympics in droves, setting as many records as Olympic swimmers over the first four days of the Beijing Games, according to figures compiled by Nielsen Online and NBC Universal.
From Aug. 6, two days before the opening ceremonies, through Aug. 9, the first full day of competition, traffic steadily built on various sites, with NBC and Yahoo! emerging as clear early leaders.
According to Nielsen, NBCOlympics.com, which will stream over 2,200 hours of live competition, drew 4 million-plus unique users this past Saturday. That's up from the 2.7 million users who logged in the previous day.
Yahoo!'s Olympics site, which does not offer any live footage, attracted 3.3 million unique users on Aug. 9, bringing it within 684,000 of NBC's traffic. Third-place finisher AOL Olympics saw over 1 million users that day.
Meanwhile, NBC officials are reporting that its Olympics coverage is performing far better than during the Summer Games four years ago in Athens, Greece. NBC's site recorded 70 million page views on Aug. 8 (opening ceremonies), a whopping 10-fold increase versus the 7 million page views generated in 2004. In fact, those 70 million page views bested the Athens Games' strongest traffic day by almost 50 million, said NBC.
As for its much-hyped live video offering, NBCOlympics appears to be off to a solid start, though comparisons are difficult, since the network had previously offered next to no live Olympics coverage on the Web. More than 430,000 users sought out video footage of the opening ceremonies on Aug. 8. (That figure represents all traffic to NBC's video URL, whether fans are accessing live or on-demand footage.) By the next day, according to Nielsen, that audience soared past 850,000 as marquee events such as swimming and gymnastics began.
Other prominent sports sites have enjoyed traffic spikes as a result of early interest in the Games, but not in the neighborhood of NBC, Yahoo! and AOL's Olympic sites. Perhaps surprisingly, ESPN.com reached just 343,000 uniques on Aug. 9, up 100,000 from the previous day.