In the end, the final day of primetime competition for the XXIII Winter Olympics was both a winner and loser to the XXII Winter Olympics of just over four years ago.
On its last Saturday, the often tractionless PyeongChang games hit a new low, dipping 5% from the previous rock bottom of February 23 with 8.7/16 metered market results on both NBC and NBC Sports Networks. As harsh as that is, last night’s results were up just over 1% from the final Saturday of Sochi 2014. A low for those Russian-based games in the early numbers, that February 22, 2014 primetime coverage on NBC-only went on to dribble in a weak 13.3 million viewers.
That small victory over 2014 may bring a toast or two around NBC HQ this morning but the overall reality is that the 2018 Winter Games are going to be the lowest rated ever with a drop of nearly 10% from the previous low of Sochi. Hell, Saturday to Saturday, last night was down 15% in metered market ratings from February 17, which was a low at the time.
Even as NBC has melded their numbers with NBCSN with simultaneous live primetime coverage, the lessons of a changing media landscape can’t help but bring a chill as NBC’18 to NBC’14 has often seen double-digit declines overall these games. Looking at the final Saturday of the XXII Winter Games to last night on NBC only, PyeongChang dropped 10% from Sochi’s last night of tape delayed primetime competition.
As Team USA has pulled into fourth place in overall medal count, there was certainly a lot to see and celebrate last night as NBC pulled out some extras in anticipation of tonight’s Closing Ceremony – which has already happen in South Korea and could be seen online early this morning.
As Canada’s gold medal winning Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took to the ice to the sounds of the Great White North rock gods the Tragically Hip for the superstar packed Figure Skating Gala Exhibition at the Gangneung Ice Arena and what is certain to be their last Olympics performance, NBC and NBCSN’s prime coverage on Saturday also included talk of curling wins, bobsledding and more skating. Plus there was also a preview of the Men’s Hockey gold medal game that the Olympic Athletes from Russia team ultimately won over Germany in the early hours of the morning U.S. time.
Traditionally, the final Saturday of almost any Olympics is a low, as interest has waned over the weeks since the dazzle of the Opening Ceremony. However, NBC jumped quickly this morning to make sure they had their spin on the ice, so to speak.
“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 NBC Broadcasting chair Mark Lazurus today of the record low viewership for an Olympics, which has dropped more than 2 million on average from the NBC-only primetime shown Sochi Games. “When compared to the competition, we were more dominant than any Winter Games ever,” he added, noting that with around $940 million in national ad sales for the Olympics, NBC hit a Winter Games record.
That was in no small part to NBC actually exceeding the somewhat low balled viewership milestones they had set out for the 2018 PyeongChang Games and the fact that the net was offering some bundle packages for the both the February 4 Super Bowl and the Olympics.
We’ll be watching tonight’s The Walking Dead facing Closing Ceremony hosted by Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir, and Terry Gannon, the last hurrahs and the handover to China for the next Winter Games. We will also update with more Olympics numbers as we get them. See you in Tokyo in 2020.