Vancouver 2010: Hockey Final Tops Off Record-Setting Olympics Ratings

The Vancouver Winter Olympics went out with a bang as the networks of NBC Universal and the Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium registered huge ratings in the final days of Games, highlighted by Team Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory against the U.S. in the gold medal men’s hockey game.

Sunday afternoon’s gold medal hockey game was the most-watched hockey game in 30 years, as NBC drew an average viewership of 27.6 million. That represents the most watched hockey broadcast of any kind since the USA vs. Finland 1980 gold medal game in Lake Placid in 1980 (32.8 million).  For historical comparison, the “Miracle on Ice” USA-Russia semifinal game that aired on tape delay in 1980 from the Lake Placid Games drew 34.2 million average viewers. The audience peaked at 34.8 million viewers (18.6 rating) from 5:30-6 p.m. ET, when the USA’s Zach Parise sent the game to overtime with the tying goal with just 24.4 seconds left in regulation.

As expected, the game was an even bigger event in Canada. The gold medal showdown was the most-watched television broadcast ever in Canadian history, with an average audience of 16.6 million viewers. Nearly half of the Canadian population watched the entire game on average, while 80% of Canadians watched some part of the game (26.5 million). The game aired live on nine television networks in eight languages via Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium.

About 22 million people – or two thirds of the Canadian population – were watching when Sidney Crosby scored in overtime that sealed the gold for Canada. In addition, 20 million viewers were watching the medal ceremony in which Team Canada received the record 14th gold medal of the Games, peaking at 20.5 million viewers when Sidney Crosby was presented with his medal from IOC President Jacques Rogge.

Overall, 190 million Americans watched the Vancouver Olympics on the networks of NBC Universal, making them the second-most watched Winter Olympics ever, surpassing Salt Lake City (187 million) and ranked behind only the tabloid-fueled 1994 Lillehammer Games. Through the 17 nights of the Vancouver Olympics, NBC drew more viewers than the other three major networks combined (9 percent advantage).  The Vancouver Olympics averaged 24.4 million viewers in primetime, more than doubling Fox, tripling CBS and quadrupling ABC over that span.

The men’s hockey final also capped off a record Olympics for Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, which delivered the top five most-watched television events in recorded history in Canada. Canadians consumed 1.25 billion hours of Vancouver 2010 coverage on television alone, with the average viewer watching 38 hours of content throughout the Games. In prime time, Vancouver 2010 (5.8 million) delivered 66% more viewers than Salt Lake City 2002 (3.5 million). Overall television viewing in Canada increased 22% during the Games versus the preceding
five weeks, with CTV tripling its average full-day audience. CTV won every timeslot in prime time on every day of the Games, for both total viewers and the prime selling demos of A25-54 and A18-49. Meanwhile, TSN also tripled its full-day audience to become the 2nd most-watched network in Canada during the Games, with Rogers Sportsnet right behind at No. 3.

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