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Winter Olympics Are a Ratings Hit in South Korea

The Pyeongchang Olympics were a ratings winner in host country South Korea, where far more viewers tuned in to the Winter Games compared to the number who watched the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The Pyeongchang Games were the first Olympics held in South Korea in 30 years, since the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

According to Nielsen Korea, the Feb. 9 opening ceremony in Pyeongchang recorded a combined rating of 44.6% from KBS, MBC and SBS, the country’s three major terrestrial networks. That is higher by 33 percentage points than 2014’s Sochi Olympics opening ceremony, which scored 11.8%. The Pyeongchang closing ceremony on Feb. 25 recorded a combined rating of 38.9%, a huge increase from the 5.3% in 2014.

The most-watched Olympic event in South Korea was the women’s 500-meter speed skating final, which featured hometown champ Lee Sang-hwa, who was going for her third straight gold medal but had to settle for silver in the end. The final earned a total rating of 61.7%. The 500-meter final was also the most-watched event in South Korea during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Nielsen did not offer data for the least-watched event.

A direct one-on-one comparison between the two latest editions of the Winter Games is difficult because Korea’s three terrestrial networks have altered their broadcasting methods. In 2014, the three networks agreed not to broadcast the same event simultaneously, except for figure skater Yuna Kim’s appearances. Only two channels were allowed to broadcast speed skating and short-track speed skating, while the third had to broadcast curling preliminaries.

This year, all three stations broadcast popular events such as short-track speed skating, in which Korean athletes excel.

The Games kept audiences glued to the TV, at a cost to the movies. About 4.88 million movie tickets were sold during the Lunar New Year holiday weekend, which fell in the middle of the Olympics. That is down by about 1 million compared to the same period in the previous years.

OTT platforms such as Pooq TV, KT’s Olleh TV mobile, Naver and Kakao also all provided live broadcast of the Games. Viewership figures are not yet available from the digital players.

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