Despite a lackluster performance by U.S. athletes in an Olympics held nine hours away (twelve if you're on the West Coast), NBC delivered impressive ratings for its coverage of the Sochi Games -- not only in primetime but across all platforms.
NBC easily captured last week's ratings race, of course, though not by the record margins of the previous week. Its 4.2 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 was higher than the combined primetime scores of Fox (1.8/5), ABC (1.1/3) and CBS (also 1.1/3), according to Nielsen, and its overall viewership of 17.8 million was similarly more than its chief rivals put together (16.4 million).
Winter Olympics averaged a 5.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 21.4 million viewers, generating record-setting advantages of 51% in the demo and 45% in total viewers over its ABC-CBS-Fox combined competition. The Games stood as the top-rated program on all 18 nights, vs. 14 of 17 from Vancouver in 2010 and eight of 17 from Torino in 2006.
Compared with recent Olympics, the 21.4 million was down 12% from Vancouver's 24.4 million years four years ago (when much of the action was telecast live and the Americans fared much better) but up 6% from the 20.2 million for the last European Winter Games in Torino. Because the overall audience for the Olympics continues to age up, though (with a median age of 55.5), this month's Olympics was down from these recent Games in adults 18-49, including 10% lower than the 2006 event (6.1).
According to cume data provided by Nielsen, more than 76% of U.S. television homes tuned in to some portion of the Sochi Winter Games, with a total television reach of 178 million American viewers. And the Games generated 242.3 million media exposures across the platforms of NBCUniversal, up 3.5 million from Vancouver four years ago.
NBC Sports Network averaged 1.6 million viewers daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET, more than double the 692,000 viewers in London four years ago. Its 4.1 million viewers for the USA-Russia Olympic men's hockey game set a hockey record for the cabler, besting the 4.0 million for a Stanley Cup Finals game (Boston-Chicago) in 2013.
On digital platforms, NBC Sports Group amassed nearly 62 million unique users -- a record for a Winter Olympics and topping the 2010 Vancouver Games by 29%. "TV Everywhere" played an important role during the Sochi Games, with verification rates being significantly higher than London in 2010; the late-afternoon U.S.-Canada men's hockey game generated more than 2.1 million unique viewers to become what is believed to be the largest "TV Everywhere" verified streaming audience in U.S. history.
And of course, the Olympics were a boon to NBC in various dayparts, including latenight where Jimmy Fallon's debut as the new host of "The Tonight Show" averaged 8.5 million viewers -- the most-watched week for the program in more than 20 years (since the week of the "Cheers" finale in May 1993). "Today" was the most-watched morning news programs both weeks of the Games, and "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" attracted its largest viewership in more than nine years.
Elsewhere last week, AMC's "The Walking Dead" bested all seven nights of the Olympics in 18-49 for a second straight frame (6.6/16 in 18-49, 13.12 million viewers overall) to lead all programs in the demo. (The Olympics ranked second through eighth on this list.)
On the broadcast series side, a special two-hour edition of Fox's "American Idol" on Tuesday (2.7/8 in 18-49, 9.73 million viewers overall) edged out a repeat of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" (2.6/8 in 18-49, 10.16 million viewers overall) and Wednesday's "Idol" (2.6/8 in 18-49, 9.95 million viewers overall) as the top draw in 18-49. And close behind was an original episode of CBS drama "Criminal Minds" (2.5/7 in 18-49, 10.06m).
WEEKLY NETWORK AVERAGES
Adults 18-49 (rating/share)