SBD/February 11, 2014/Olympics

NBC Wins Sunday Night, But "Walking Dead" Takes Lead Among Youth, Adults 18-49

NBC saw mixed results for its tape-delayed primetime Olympic coverage on Sunday night, which included the Gold Medal finals for team figure skating, men’s downhill, women’s slopestyle snowboarding and men’s ski jumping (individual K-95). NBC finished with a 14.4 rating and 26.3 million viewers for coverage from 7:30-11:00pm ET. The rating is actually the first day-over-day increase compared to live coverage from the ’10 Vancouver Games (14.3), but viewership was actually down slightly (26.4 million viewers). Compared to the tape-delayed ’06 Turin Games, Sunday’s primetime coverage was up from a 13.3 rating and 23.2 million viewers. NBC also averaged 8.0 million viewers for late-night coverage on Sunday from 11:30pm-12:30am, marking the best Winter Olympics audience for that time slot since the ’88 Calgary Games. NBC averaged 15.4 million viewers on Sunday from 2:00-6:00pm, up 14% from similar coverage in ’10 and up 23% from ’06. Locally, Salt Lake City took the top spot on Sunday night with a 23.5 rating, beating out Minneapolis-St. Paul for the first time during these Olympics (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Minneapolis, Neal Justin reports for the “first time in recent history, the Twin Cities are leading the nation in viewership” for the Games with more than 41% of all TVs "in use being tuned in for Saturday night’s coverage.” The national average is 25%. Friday’s opening ceremonies drew a 26.0 rating in the market, which “translates to about 468,000 households.” The “closest competitor” is Salt Lake City with a 24.4 rating (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/11).

WINTER OLYMPICS PRIMETIME RATINGS TREND (EXCLUDES OPENING THURSDAY)
 
'14 (Sochi)
'10 (Vancouver)
'06 (Turin)
'02 (Salt Lake)
3rd Day (Sunday)
14.4
14.3
13.3
17.6
2nd Day (Saturday)
13.9
14.0
13.5
17.1
Opening Ceremony
17.0
17.3
12.8
25.5
THREE-NIGHT AVG.
15.1
15.3
13.2
20.3
         

RISING FROM THE DEAD: The AP's David Bauder notes rival networks often “essentially give in against the Olympics, but that wasn't the case on Sunday.” AMC's "The Walking Dead" returned "from a hiatus with its second biggest audience ever" and "beat the Olympics among young viewers,” as well as among adults 18-49 (AP, 2/10). In N.Y., Bill Carter writes NBC’s Sunday primetime audience was “an especially impressive showing, considering how many millions of other viewers were scattered across the television landscape.” However, “The Walking Dead” showed “continued dominance" among adults 18-49, which is the "category that is preferred by many advertisers” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11).

AUDIENCE FIGURES FOR SELECT SUNDAY NIGHT PROGRAMMING
NET
PROGRAM
TIME
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
ADULTS 18-49
NBC
Sochi Games
7:30-11:00pm
14.4
26,323
7.2
CBS
"The Beatles: A Grammy Salute"
8:00-10:30pm
11.3
20,016
2.1
AMC
"The Walking Dead"
9:00-10:00pm
7.9
15,760
8.2
CBS
"60 Minutes"
7:00-8:00pm
6.0
9,380
1.1
ABC
"America's Funniest Home Videos"
7:00-8:00pm
3.1
5,371
1.3
           

NBCSN RECORDS STACKING UP: The big winner in the audience department for the Sochi Games to date has been NBCSN. The net, which is airing Winter Olympic coverage for the first time, averaged 2.9 million viewers from 6:00am-2:23pm on Sunday, marking its second-straight day of record-setting viewership. NBCSN’s daytime coverage was highlighted by 5.5 million viewers watching live coverage of the Gold Medal final for men’s ski jumping (individual K-95) from 1:00-2:23pm, marking the net’s most-watched telecast on record. For comparison, NBCSN only drew 4.0 million viewers for Game 3 of last season’s Blackhawks-Bruins NHL Stanley Cup Final on a Monday night (Karp). Meanwhile, in Tampa, Tom Jones wrote NBCSN has “found a new television star” in Tara Lipinski, who has been “outstanding calling figure skating” in Sochi. But Jones wrote he has been a "little disappointed in her on-air partner," Johnny Weir. He has an "outrageous personality," but his “commentary has been too safe.” He has been “a cheerleader, not an analyst.” If he “let his personality shine through, he would be someone worth listening to” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/10).

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
: The AP’s Bauder wrote the story of Canadian skier Alex Bilodeau, who yesterday won his second straight Gold Medal in the men's moguls, and his older brother with cerebral palsy “is an inspiring one, superbly told in an extended feature in prime time.” Yet the “line between inspiration and exploitation can be fine, and it felt like NBC walked over it with repeated pictures of Frederic cheering from the sideline.” The point was “well made, no need to keep hammering it home” (AP, 2/10).

THE USUAL ISSUES: The CP’s Cassandra Szklarski wrote just days into the Sochi Games, thousands have “revived the Twitter hashtag #NBCfail from previous Games with fresh complaints, while an online petition to wrest broadcast rights away from the peacock network has popped up online." One California household even has "purchased a Canadian IP address to stream CBC coverage instead.” NBC’s coverage is “dwarfed by that of CBC and its broadcast partners, which offer more than 1,500 hours of TV and another 1,500 hours of online streaming.” But the nine-hour time difference between Sochi and the East Coast has been “brutal for Olympics fans looking for live coverage on either side of the border.” CBC “offers live material but only after midnight and into the late morning” (CP, 2/10).

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Olympics, NBC

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