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TV Ratings: Rio Olympics Down From London But Digital Viewership Soars

The first night of competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics crushed all primetime broadcast offerings Saturday night. But NBC’s coverage of the Rio games continues to lag far behind the turnout for the London games four years ago.

NBC Sports said NBC’s primetime coverage on Saturday delivered 20.7 million viewers from 8:30 p.m.-11:05 p.m. ET. Over the first two nights the games have averaged 24.4 million viewers, making it second only to the London games. Viewership of the full-day Olympics menu on NBCSN, from 9 a.m. to midnight ET, was up 45% to 1.8 million. The peak audience came from 6-6:15 p.m. ET when 4.3 million watched the U.S. men’s basketball team score win over China.

The Peacock also touted its digital numbers as the best ever for Olympics coverage, no surprise given the heightened emphasis on streaming options this time out. On Saturday, NBC Olympics platforms delivered 155 million live streaming minutes, up 263% from day two in 2012. That worked out to 11.3 million unique users, up 7% from 2012.

Saturday’s broadcast numbers follow an opening ceremony Friday night that was the lowest rated for a Summer Olympics since the 1992 games in Atlanta. The Rio opening drew a 7.7 rating and 27.3 million viewers.

Some of that drop-off may be due to cannibalization from multiplatform viewing. NBCUniversal and parent company Comcast put a heavy emphasis on its offering of on-demand and live streamed competition coverage heading into Rio. But executives with the company had argued that multiplatform viewing would drive linear tune-in, not steal from it.

In local markets, Salt Lake City was the top city for primetime NBC Olympics coverage on Saturday, delivering a 17.4 household rating and 36 share. Austin, Texas; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Denver rounded out the top five markets for NBC.

ABC, CBS and Fox all counter-programmed with reruns. The former two averaged a 0.3 demo rating, and the latter a 0.2.

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