Primetime coverage of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea averaged 19.8 million viewers a night across NBC, NBC Sports Network, and NBC Sports Digital’s streaming platforms. That is down approximately 7% from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which did not air on NBC Sports Network and had no simultaneous streaming. The 2018 declines came despite the fact that they were the first Winter Games in which primetime coverage was available simultaneously on broadcast, cable and streaming. Of the 19.8 million viewers, an average of 17.8 million came from NBC alone. Because of the time difference, some primetime coverage of Pyeongchang was tape delayed but NBC made events available via live stream.
A 7% viewership drop over a four-year span at a time when viewing habits are changing rapidly still marks a solid performance for NBC, which swamped the competition for an 18-day stretch. While 2018’s viewership totals were nothing to sneeze at, they rarely surpassed 2014. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, viewership for Pyeongchang topped 20.5 million across all platforms, exceeding the 18.9 million viewers of the comparable day in Sochi by approximately 8%. The only other night to top Sochi was Saturday, Feb. 24. That night’s coverage pulled in 13.5 million viewers, compared to the 13.3 million from the comparable Sochi coverage.
In addition, these Olympics were the least-watched on record, averaging 19.8 million viewers across multiple platforms while Sochi averaged 21.3 million. The 2002 Salt Lake City games remain the high water mark for viewership during the past 20 years with an average of 31.9 million viewers. The 1998 Nagano Olympics, which aired on CBS, averaged 25.3 million viewers, followed by Vancouver in 2010 (24.4 million) and Torino in 2006 (20.2 million).
But there was still some good news.
The Pyeongchang Olympics were still the top-rated program on TV for more than two weeks, beating CBS, ABC, and Fox combined. The NBC-only primetime average viewership of 17.8 million surpassed Fox, CBS, and ABC combined by an average of 82%, the largest such advantage for any Winter Games.
“In today’s media environment, to average approximately 20 million viewers over 18 nights – which is essentially the number of hours for a full season of three primetime shows – is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports. “When compared to the competition, we were more dominant than any Winter Games ever.”
In addition, NBC Sports Network is on pace for its best month ever. Based on available data through Feb. 25, the cable network is averaging 768,000 total day viewers. In addition, live streaming and cable coverage provided double-digit lift to NBC’s coverage. On average, cable and streaming boosted Olympics viewership this year by 11%. The biggest such gain came on Sunday, Feb. 11 when NBC’s coverage went from 22.7 million to 26 million when all platforms were counted.
Finally, NBC Sports Digital live streamed 1.85 billion minutes of coverage from Pyeongchang, with 2.17 billion being streamed total. That final total is more than triple what was streamed in 2014.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of ratings for the Pyeongchang and Sochi Winter Games:
|PYC 2018||Sochi 2014|
|Opening Thur.||17.2 million||20.0 million|
|First Fri.||28.3 million||31.7 million|
|First Sat.||24.2 million||25.1 million|
|First Sun.||26.0 million||26.3 million|
|First Mon.||22.3 million||22.4 million|
|First Tues.||22.6 million||23.7 million|
|First Wed.||19.2 million||20.8 million|
|Mid. Thur.||19.3 million||22.9 million|
|Mid. Fri.||19.2 million||19.2 million|
|Mid. Sat.||16.1 million||17.1 million|
|Mid. Sun.||18.2 million||21.3 million|
|2nd Mon.||18.6 million||23.5 million|
|2nd Tues.||20.5 million||18.9 million|
|2nd Wed.||16.4 million||20.2 million|
|Final Thur.||17.6 million||20.3 million|
|Final Fri.||14.0 million||14.9 million|
|Final Sat.||13.5 million||13.3 million|
|Final Sun.||14.8 million||15.2 million|
|Average||19.8 million||21.3 million|