Russian Ratings for Sochi Games Likely to Surpass Those for Past Two Winter Olympics

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However, a dramatic increase in viewership for the games, which begin Thursday, is unlikely.

MOSCOW – Local broadcasts of the Sochi Olympics are likely to attract more TV viewers in Russia than the two previous Winter Olympics did, but a surge in ratings is unlikely.

According to the Russian ad agency Initiative, which recently conducted a study of Olympic ratings, the Sochi opening ceremony on Friday is likely to generate a rating of between 15 percent and 20 percent.

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The Olympics' other top five events are predicted to have ratings of between 10 percent and 13 percent.

The state-run broadcasting corporation VGTRK, which will broadcast the Olympics along with fellow state-run network Channel One, said it expects the Olympic broadcasts to have ratings "several times" higher than its normal broadcasts but wouldn't elaborate.

Of recent Winter Olympics, the 2002 games in Salt Lake City enjoyed the highest ratings in Russia, with the 2006 games in Turin and the 2010 edition in Vancouver lagging behind.

The Salt Lake opening ceremony's rating was 17 percent against 10 percent for Vancouver and Turin.

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The Sochi Olympics are unlikely to see a dramatic increase in the Russian TV audience, as it is already near its maximum figures, said the audience counter TNS Russia.

However, TV stations broadcasting the Olympic events are likely to steal a substantial number of viewers from their competitors.

According to Initiative, networks broadcasting Olympic Games normally steal between 4 percent and 5 percent of audiences from other stations, and that figure is likely to stay the same during Sochi. As a result, the combined audience share of Channel One and VGTRK's Rossiya 1 and Rossiya 2 could reach 46 percent during the Olympics.

Meanwhile, advertisers who want their commercials run during Olympic broadcasts will have to pay much more than they normally do. The ad seller Telesport said that during the Olympics, advertisers would have to pay five times as much for placing commercials.