Sochi Ratings Roundup: NBC Sees Huge NBCSN, Streaming Viewership for Live Coverage; Primetime Numbers Sink, But Still Dominant

Spotlighting the rapidly changing fashion in which Americans consumer their Olympics content, NBC scored huge viewership for its live streaming coverage from Sochi and live telecasts on NBCSN, but struggled through near record lows in primetime viewership on the Peacock mothership. Nonetheless, NBC scored huge numbers overall when accounting for multiplatform consumption and dominated the competition with its primetime coverage, topping the other three broadcast nets during all 18 nights of the Sochi Games.

In all, the NBC’s 1500-plus hours of coverage from Sochi generated 242.3 million media exposures across the platforms of NBCUniversal – a 3.5 million increase over the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, which were televised live and proved to be the second-most watched Winter Olympics ever in terms of TV viewership. Viewers in three of every four U.S. television households (76.1%) tuned in to some portion of the Sochi Winter Games, with a total television reach of 178 million American viewers, according to Nielsen’s fast cume data.

Primetime: Down From Vancouver, But Up From Torino
NBC averaged 21.4 million viewers and 12.3 household rating share for its primetime Sochi Olympics coverage (9-hour time difference from ET) – up 6% in viewership and 1% in ratings from 20.2 million viewers and 12.2 rating for the last European Winter Games in Torino in 2006 (6-hour difference).

However, the Games trailed NBC’s primetime coverage of the live (ET/CT) 2010 Vancouver Games (averaged 24.4 million viewers with a 13.8 household rating) by 10% and 12%, respectively. The 2012 Sumer Games in London meanwhile, averaged a 17.5 rating and 31.1 million viewers.

According to SportsMediaWatch, the Sochi Olympics averaged the second-lowest rating and viewership ever for the Olympics in primetime, just ahead of the record-lows set in 2006. Despite ratings and viewership being up a healthy 8% and 14%, respectively, from Torino through the second Saturday of the Games, numbers dropped off sharply during the second week and the final three nights in Sochi rank as the three lowest-rated primetime Olympics telecasts in at least 20 years.

Even with the historically low primetime numbers, NBC thoroughly dominated the competition, as the Olympics generated record-setting advantages of 45% in viewers (21.4 million viewers), 32% in household rating (12.3), and 51% in Adults 18-49 (5.5) in primtime over the combined primetime totals of ABC, CBS and FOX, according to Nielsen’s live plus same day official national data. Sochi programming was the top-rated program all 18 nights – besting Vancouver (14 of 17 nights) and Torino (8 of 17 nights).

NBCSN Skyrockets With Live Coverage
All 16 days of NBCSN’s coverage (Feb. 8-23) posted higher viewership than its coverage of the 2012 London Olympics in the comparable 6 a.m.-3 p.m. ET time period. NBCSN averaged 1.6 million viewers for the Sochi Games in the 6 a.m.-3 p.m. ET time period – a 134% increase over the network’s comparable daytime coverage of the 2012 London Games (692,000 viewers).

In addition, the 10 best weekday daytime audiences in NBCSN’s history were provided by its 10 weekdays of Sochi coverage and the network’s five highest viewership totals for weekend daytimes also came during coverage of this Olympics.

The Team USA-Canada Olympic men’s hockey semifinal on Feb. 21 posted a 2.7 household rating/8 share to rank as the highest-rated hockey game in NBCSN history — exceeding Olympics competition as well as the ratings for any Stanley Cup Playoffs or Stanley Cup Finals game in the network’s history.

·NBCSN averaged 4.1 million viewers for the Feb. 15 USA-Russia Olympic men’s hockey game – setting a record for the most-watched hockey game in the network’s history (previous: 4.0 million for Blackhawks-Bruins in 2013 Stanley Cup Finals Game 3). Viewership for the game peaked at 6.4 million from 10-10:30 a.m. ET during the tension-laden, eight-round shootout and is the most-watched half hour in NBCSN history.

Digital Platforms Continue to Grow
NBC Sports Group’s digital platforms amassed nearly 62 million unique users (61.8 million) – a record for a Winter Olympics and topping the 2010 Vancouver Games by 29%. A Winter Olympics-record 10.8 million hours of video were consumed on NBC Olympics’ digital platforms, more than triple the hours of video streamed for the Vancouver Games.

Approximately 80% of the video was viewed via “TV Everywhere” authenticated live streams on and the NBC Sports Live Extra app. NBC Olympics’ exclusive highlights comprised the remaining video viewed. Verification rates were significantly higher than the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The Feb. 21 verified live stream of the Olympic men’s ice hockey semifinal between the United States and Canada, which Team Canada won 1-0, generated more than 2.1 million unique users (2.122 million) – believed to be the largest “TV Everywhere” verified streaming audience in U.S. history and ranking #1 in unique users for any NBC Sports Digital stream, topping NBC’s non-authenticated Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012 (2.105 million uniques).

NBC Sports Digital marked three consecutive days with record-setting live streaming performances from Feb 19-21.  Prior to the Team USA men’s hockey record noted above, the Feb. 20 U.S.-Canada women’s gold medal game was the most streamed authenticated game in the history of NBC Sports Digital and most-streamed Olympics event ever (1.2 million unique users on and the NBC Sports Live Extra app). The Feb. 19 U.S.-Czech Republic men’s quarterfinal hockey game was previously the most-streamed Olympic event ever (798,337 uniques).

Late Night Window, Fallon Debut Earn Big Numbers
The NBC Olympics Late Night show produced its best Winter Olympics performance since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games with an average of 5.6 million viewers – topping Vancouver by 17% and Torino by 12%. Sochi late night coverage trails only London in 2012, which averaged 6.2 million viewers, among all Summer and Winter Games.

In the second week of the Sochi Games, Jimmy Fallon debuted as the new host of “The Tonight Show” and averaged 8.5 million viewers during his first full week of shows (Feb. 17-21), marking the most-watched week for “The Tonight Show” since May 17-21, 1993 (week of the “Cheers” finale).

Top Moments From Sochi
The Feb. 17 primetime telecast featuring Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning America’s first-ever ice dancing Olympic gold medal averaged 23.5 million viewers and a 13.8 household rating – resulting in respective 29% and 18% advantages over the combined primetime viewership and household rating of ABC, CBS and FOX. Those advantages rank as the most-dominant Monday night in the Sept.-May TV season since the 1998 Academy Awards (Titanic won best picture) by any broadcast network compared to the combined performance of the other major broadcast networks.

· The thrilling women’s gold medal hockey game between the United States and Canada at noon ET on Feb. 20, won 3-2 by Team Canada on an overtime goal by Marie-Philip Poulin, averaged 4.9 million viewers on NBC to rank as the most-watched hockey game in the U.S., excluding Stanley Cup Finals, since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics men’s gold medal game (Canada defeated the U.S. 3-2 on an overtime goal by Sidney Crosby).

NBC News and Affiliate News
NBC’s national and affiliate news programming also posted increases in all dayparts.

TODAY was the #1 ranked morning show for both weeks of the Sochi Olympics, posting its best viewership since the London Olympics.  TODAY also grew its total viewer and key demo advantages over the competition by triple digits.

NBC Nightly News was the #1 evening news program for both weeks of the Sochi Olympics. In addition, for the first week of the Games, NBC Nightly News averaged 11.6 million viewers – ranking as the program’s best viewership week in more than nine years (Jan. 2005) and topping the first-week audiences of the past four Olympics (London, Vancouver, Beijing, and Torino).

Local weekday newscasts on NBC affiliates enjoyed household ratings increases compared to the prior four weeks.  Household ratings for late local news jumped 62%, local early morning news ratings increased 20%, and ratings for local evening newscasts were up 9%.

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