Cell phones and the Internet are muscling in on more traditional media as ways to see the Olympic Games, and the trend will only deepen, organizers said on Tuesday.
Timo Lumme, head of TV and marketing for the International Olympic Committee, said non-traditional media had already matched the 20,000 hours from traditional broadcasters so far these games, contributing to a total audience he expects to reach 3.5 billion — or half the world's population.
"We've had a continuing digital explosion," Lumme told a news conference. "We now have the same amount of hours covered globally on digital media — Internet, mobile — as we have on the old media broadcasting, and a quarter of that is mobile."
"People are accessing this in different ways during different times. It does mean more is being consumed."
Lumme said organizers were pleased with national broadcasters that include Canada's CTV and U.S. network NBC.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
NBC, which paid a record $2.2 billion for U.S. broadcast rights to the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics, has said it will lose money on the Winter Games. But Lumme declined to speculate if that meant bids would come in lower next time.
"The IOC has never forced any broadcaster to pay, it's a bidding process," he said. "Whoever wishes to pay the most gets the deal. That's the way it's been and that's the way it will be in the future."
He added: "We are very confident that the Olympic games will retain premium status as a world event and I think it will command a premium price. What that price is will be decided by market forces that are out of our control."
NBC said on Tuesday that half of all Americans had watched at least some of its Olympic coverage.
But NBC online coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics drew just 33 million viewers. Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC Universal, said TV was "still king."
"Multiplatform consumption is emerging and going to become extraordinarily important. But the mothership is — and will remain for a very long time — television," he said.