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South Korea officially kicked off its PyeongChang-hosted Winter Games on Friday, with the Olympic flame settling into its home for the next two weeks during the Opening Ceremony.
The considerable difference in time zones meant that NBC’s coverage of the event was delayed by more than 12 hours, and early returns for the three-plus hours have them holding up pretty well against the kickoff of the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
Per Nielsen’s overnight returns, coverage averaged a 16.9 rating among metered-market households — a drop of only 9 percent from four years ago. Sochi, for comparison’s sake, earned a 18.5 rating by the same measure. Friday’s coverage was naturally much further off from Vancouver in 2010, but a marked improvement from Torino in 2016.
NBC is doing things a little differently this time out. Much of the primetime Olympic coverage will carry live events, so the West Coast is airing that feed three hours earlier than on the East Coast. (Coverage plays again in primetime.) NBC is also continuing to report its Total Audience Delivery, an average minute of viewing across broadcast, cable, and digital. That combination brought an average 17.2 million viewers to the network for Thursday’s early events. Viewership for NBC alone was down 20 percent from the comparable night in Sochi.
The Winter Olympic Games typically see a bit more ratings vacillation than their summer counterpart. The 2014 Sochi Games did not live up to the successes of Vancouver in 2010, but proximity and time zones played a large role in that. Sochi remained a massive improvement over the Torino Games in 2006.
Saturday is the first day of medalled competition in PyeongChang, including ski jumping and speed skating. Figure skating, luge, curling and alpine skiing events are also on deck.
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