The 2018 Winter Games are underway in PyeongChang, South Korea. And while NBC’s substantial coverage doesn’t officially kick off until Friday evening’s delayed telecast of the Opening Ceremony, the network tested the waters of Olympic interest with Thursday’s bonus day of competition.
A three-hour-plus block averaged a 3.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 16 million viewers on NBC alone. That includes live telecasts across the country — and an encore in primetime for the West Coast.
Stacked up to the most recent comparison, pre-Opening Day Sochi in 2014, the coverage was down by 38 percent in the key demo and lost 20 percent of its audience — down by 4 million viewers. With NBC Sports Network and streaming, an afternoon tally from the company cited a total 17.2 million viewers. NBC Sports will be issuing Total Audience Delivery reports for its PyeongChang coverage throughout the games, and those will include streaming lifts and cable adds when appropriate. (As is the case with all of TV, more and more viewers are watching the Olympics online.)
Thursday’s coverage included freestyle skiing and men’s figure skating — including a devastating performance for U.S. hopeful Nathan Chen. No medals were awarded.
The Winter Olympics typically see a bit more ratings vacillation year to year and country to country. 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. And Sochi was still a massive improvement from the Torino Games in 2006.
Pressure is now on NBC to see if it can drive viewers to Friday’s primetime Opening Ceremony coverage, even though all of TV-watching America will have had the opportunity to stream the affair throughout the day. It started at 6 a.m. on the East Coast.