Olympics Ratings Wrap: An Up Arrow for NBC (updated)

After Torino disaster of 2006, Vancouver proves to be a much more audience-friendly Games.

Last Updated: March 1, 2010 @ 12:30 PM

Ratings for all 17 nights of NBC’s Olympics coverage show the Vancouver Games finishing up 20 percent in overall viewership vs. Torino — but with a much smaller bump in viewers under 50.

Per Nielsen, NBC’s reports from Canada averaged 24.2 million overall viewers and a 6.5/18 in adults 18-49. That’s up from 20.2 million viewers and 6.1/16 for the low-rated Torino Olympics in 2006.

NBC went into the Games already admitting it was on track to lose more than $200 million, having dramatically overbid for the rights to the 2012 event.

The good news is that the Peacock’s solid ratings proved that big events can still draw a crowd, even if getting younger viewers to watch live — and on television — remains tricky. That’s clear from the fact that, despite double digit overall audience growth, NBC’s under 50 demo rating was up only about 7 percent this year. This, despite a far more dramatic Olympics than Italy and the fact that the Games were in the USA’s own backyard.

Look for NBC to spin how many viewers, including the young ‘uns, watched the Games outside the home or via clips online at its NBCOlympics.com. Those numbers aren’t just PR hype or excuses: Given the rapidly-changing ways so many viewers watch and engage with TV programming, it would be stupid not to take into account non-conventional forms of viewership when trying to gauge how audiences responded to the Games.

NBC has the rights to the 2012 Games in London, but after that, rights to the Olympics are up for grabs once more.

Check back later for updates to the final Olympics ratings, with more stats than you can shake a stick at.

UPDATE 12:25 PM

Holy puck!

Sunday’s midday broadcast of the USA vs. Canada hockey showdown for the gold drew 27.6 million viewers, making it the most watched hockey game in 30 years.

NBC says the overtime game peaked between 2:30 and 3 p.m. west coast time with just under 35 million viewers.

The last time hockey did so well in the US was when the US and Finland squared off in the gold medal game in 1980 (32.8 million). A few days earlier, the Miracle on Ice seminfinal game between Team USA and Team Ruskies drew 34.2 million viewers.

No shocker: Sunday’s gold medal hockey game was seen by 10.5 million more viewers than the similar matchup between USA and Canada in 2002, when the Games were in Salt Lake City.