Viewership for the start of NBC’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics programming was down 14.8 percent from comparable coverage of the 2014 Sochi Games, continuing the pattern of dropping viewership for nearly all forms of television programming.
The Thursday, Saturday and Sunday prime-time coverage and Friday’s opening ceremony averaged 21.976 million viewers, compared to the 25.788 million who tuned in to watch the 2014 Olympics, according to live-plus-same- day figures released by Nielsen.
An often-cited reason for declining television viewership is increased viewing of streaming programming. When cable and digital viewership of the first four nights prime-time Olympic coverage is included, the average viewership increases to 23.925 million and the decrease in viewership drops to 7.2 percent.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics had no simultaneous live streaming and no competing prime-time Olympic cable coverage.
Friday’s opening ceremony was the most-watched prime-time program between Feb. 5 and Sunday, averaging 27.837 million viewers, 12.2 percent less than the 31.69 million average in 2014. The audience was the largest for a Friday program since the 2014 opening ceremony.
Viewership was the third largest for a Winter Olympics opening ceremony not shown live in the U.S. behind the 33.8 million average for the 1994 Lillehammer Games, which were carried by CBS, and the Sochi Games.
The most-watched Winter Olympics opening ceremony came for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, when an average of 45.6 million viewers watched NBC’s live coverage. U.S. television viewership for Olympic Games held in the U.S. is typically larger because of the excitement generated by the Games’ presence in the county.
The Sunday coverage was second for the week, averaging 22.676 million viewers, 13.8 percent less than the 26.32 million average in 2014.
The Saturday coverage was third for the week, averaging 21.394 million, 14.8 percent less than the 25.12 million average in 2014.
The Thursday coverage was fourth for the week, averaging 15.995 million viewers, 20.1 percent less than 20.02 million average in 2014.
Viewership for most forms of programing has dropped in recent years, in part because of increased viewership of streaming programing.
Sunday’s prime-time Olympic coverage lifted NBC into the seasonlong lead among total viewers for the first time since it finished first in the 2001- 02 season.
NBC averaged 15.82 million viewers for its prime-time programming for the week, more than the combined 12.44 million total for CBS (5.55 million), ABC (4.04 million) and Fox (2.85 million).
NBC’s 27 percent win over the combined total of the other three major broadcast networks is the largest for any network during the official television season, excluding Super Bowl or full Olympic weeks in the history of Nielsen’s People Meter system, which began in September 1987.
NBC aired 21 1/2 hours of prime-time programing for ratings purposes, CBS 22 hours, ABC 21 hours, 56 minutes and Fox 15 hours.
NBC had two non-Olympics programs in the week’s top 10 — the drama “This Is Us,” seventh for the week, averaging 10.136 million viewers, and the game show “Ellen’s Game of Games,” 10th for the week, averaging 7.703 million.
CBS had each of the week’s two most-watched entertainment programs, “NCIS” and “Bull,” fifth and sixth overall, averaging 13.897 and 10.9 million.
ABC’s most-watched program was the first-year medical drama “The Good Doctor,” eighth for the week, averaging 9.638 million.
The first-season procedural drama “9-1-1” was Fox’s most-watched program for the third consecutive week, averaging 6.64 million, 20th overall.
Three episodes of “Hannity” and two of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” combined to be the week’s five most-watched prime-time cable programs, helping Fox News Channel be the most-watched cable network for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 2.537 million viewers.
The Monday “Hannity” episode was the week’s most-watched cable program, averaging 3.903 million viewers, 40th overall.
MSNBC was second for the fifth consecutive week, averaging 1.696 million. ESPN was third, averaging 1.369 million viewers, 3,000 more than fourth-place HGTV. All three cable networks aired 22 hours of programming for ratings purposes.
The most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was the Tuesday episode of the Univision telenovela “El Rico y Lazaro,” 67th among broadcast programs, averaging 1.949 million viewers. Its overall ranking was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 14th consecutive week, averaging 1.56 million viewers. Telemundo averaged 1.11 million viewers to finish second for the 14th consecutive week after four consecutive first-place finishes.
UniMas was third, averaging 710,000 viewers, followed by Estrella TV, which averaged 270,000 and Azteca America, which averaged 80,000.
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 11th consecutive week and 22nd of past 23, averaging 9.405 million viewers.
The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 9.176 million viewers.
The “CBS Evening News” averaged 7.091 million viewers. It has finished third each week since the week of Sept. 25-29, 2006.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and its Sunday, Saturday and Thursday Olympics coverage; CBS’ “NCIS” and “Bull”; NBC’s “This Is Us”; ABC’s “The Good Doctor”; CBS’ “NCIS: New Orleans”; and NBC’s “Ellen’s Game of Games.”
–City News Service
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