BBC expects modest ratings for Olympics

Shift to online will dilute TV audience

LONDON — The BBC’s live TV coverage of the London Olympics is likely to achieve lower ratings than other recent Olympics because of the increased amount of online coverage.

Roger Mosey, the BBC’s director of London 2012, predicted that audience figures for the pubcaster’s main Olympics channels, BBC1 and 3, would be relatively modest, with no 23.2 million peaks of the kind that watched England’s exit from the Euro 2012 soccer tournament on Sunday.

“By giving people much more choice than ever before the butter will be spread a bit more thinly,” said Mosey, speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild.

“During the day we’re expecting audiences in the range of 5-6 million on BBC1 and BBC3.”

For the duration of the Games, BBC1 and 3 will provide blanket coverage of the Olympics, with flagship soap, “EastEnders,” shunted to BBC2.

At Athens in 2004, the last Olympics that posed no time zone issues for the Beeb, six events during the Games won audiences of 10 million or more for the pubcaster.

Mosey said he would be happy if the BBC’s reach — the total number of the U.K. population who tune in to the Olympics at least once during the duration of the games — was around 40 million. For Athens the reach figure was 45 million.

Mosey, who has been working on the Olympics for the past three years, played down the cost of covering the event, which involves the BBC delivering 2,500 hours of live sport, most of it online or via up to 24 red button channels, also available on pay boxes BSkyB and Virgin, and Freesat.

“Is the cost astronomical? No,” said Mosey. “I have always said we will be publishing full details of how much we have spent once the Olympics are over.”

Pressed for more details of helmer Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, Mosey admitted that having a movie director on board entailed an element of risk.

He said: “It is essentially a live movie…It is Danny’s vision and it is clever. You have to take risks. The opening ceremony has got risk. It may or may not work.

“But it is better do that than a corporate blancmange that no one likes at all.”