The Beijing coverage has not been without a few hitches. Some viewers in California and elsewhere have complained that NBC has tagged certain events as "live" that actually aired on a two-hour delay, with only East Coast viewers seeing them as they happened. Because so much information is available online in real time, "spoilers" are common.
It happened again when he found out about the men's 400-meter freestyle relay from a newspaper website before NBC showed it "live."
"NBC needs to either cover these events live, or quit saying it is," Teske said.
Now, Teske said he tries to avoid news sites and plans his Olympic TV viewing with help from Entertainment Weekly's website.
An NBC spokesman said after learning of viewer complaints, the network began stamping video several times per hour with explanations that the material had aired live in the Eastern and Central time zones.
There is always the chance that viewer interest will wane before the closing ceremony. But that seems unlikely with stars like Phelps around.
Starting in November, NBC began promoting the swimmer as a potential Olympics star, including him during its coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.
"Knowing his story will play out live in prime time, fans can follow him and his story much like a serialized drama," NBC's McCarley said.
Indeed, NBC executives have treated this Olympics as a consummate cultural event, not just an athletic competition.
As Wurtzel said, "The reason we've reached half of America is [that it's] way beyond just a sporting event."