Boosted by the newly introduced team figure skating event that gave host Russia its first gold medal of the games, last night’s Sochi Olympics coverage on NBC drew a 6.9 in adults 18-49 and 25.4 million viewers, very close to the first Sunday night of the Vancouver Games (7.0, 26.3 million) despite the unfavorable time zone difference. That is a pattern NBC’s Sochi coverage has followed for its fist few days, staying on par with the North America games of 2010.
The biggest challenge to NBC’s coverage last night came from AMC’s The Walking Dead, which had its midseason premiere. The zombie drama has successfully taken on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in the past, so female-skewing Olympics may not be such a big obstacle. CBS and PBS (Downton Abbey) were the only broadcast networks to air originals opposite the Olympics. CBS special The Beatles: The Night That Changed America, A Grammy Salute from 8-10:30 PM marked the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and featured the band’s surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr joined by a host of music stars. It drew a respectable 14 million viewers and was understandably older-skewing, posting a 2.1 in 18-49. The network did better four years ago on the first Sunday of the Vancouver Olympics against originals on Fox. Back then, The Amazing Race launched a new season with a 2.8 in 18-49 and 9.1 million viewers, followed by Undercover Boss, which scored a big 5.1 and 15.3 million viewers in its first airing following the post-Super Bowl premiere.