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TV Ratings: NBC's Winter Olympics Get a Strong Start Before Opening Ceremony

UPDATED: Topping the night by all measures, the three-hour block of Sochi coverage faced more originals than it's scheduled to later this month — besting a mostly steady "The Big Bang Theory" in the process.

Sochi Olympics Snowboarding - H 2014
AP Photo/Andy Wong
Snowboarding at the Sochi Olympics

Despite the slightly unorthodox nature of Thursday's Winter Olympics coverage kickoff, airing a night before the opening ceremony, the soft launch of the 2014 Sochi games still brought an exceptionally strong start in the ratings for NBC. And it did so facing almost entirely original competition from the other broadcast networks.

NBC's exclusive coverage, which included snowboarding and figure skating, posted the largest Big Four overnights for a Thursday since the Sept. 5 NFL season-opening game -- with an average 11.8 rating and an 18 share among metered-market households.

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Fast national ratings, subject to adjustments later on Friday, gave the three-hour Olympics block an average 5.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 19.56 million viewers.

During their common half-hour, the Winter Olympics also scored a victory over usual time slot champ The Big Bang Theory. At 8 p.m., the mostly steady CBS sitcom averaged a 5.0 rating in the key demo and 17.2 million viewers, with the Olympics kickoff earning a 5.3 rating and 18.2 million viewers at the same time. The Olympics peaked at the top of the 9 p.m. hour, rising to a 6.3 rating with adults 18-49 between 9 and 9:30.

Elsewhere on CBS, The Millers (2.7 adults) actually managed to improve a tenth of a point from last week -- while the rest of the block did dip against the Olympics. The Crazy Ones (1.7 adults) and Two and a Half Men (1.8 adults) each fell two-tenths of a point. That meant a series low for the veteran Men. And Elementary (1.8 adults) was down just a tenth, giving CBS a 2.5 rating with adults 18-49 and 10.4 million viewers for the night.

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American Idol held steady against the Olympics as well, averaging a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 on Fox, and off just a tenth of a point from last week. The same can't be said for Rake. In its third week, the show fell two-tenths of a point to just a 1.1 rating with adults 18-49 at 9 p.m. For the night, Fox came in third place with a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 7.6 million viewers.

As for ABC, The Taste (1.0 adults) was down a tenth of a point from last week. The network also averaged a 1.0 rating for the night -- and 3.2 million viewers.

The CW saw The Vampire Diaries (0.9 adults) fall two-tenths of a point from last week. Reign (0.6 adults) retained its most recent score to give the network a 0.8 demo rating for the night and 1.9 million viewers.