While NBC's prime-time coverage of the first day of competition from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics on Thursday night effectively sucked all the air out of the broadcast and cable competition, the ratings were down sharply compared to the turnout for the official opening night four years ago in Sochi, Russia.
According to Nielsen Total Audience data, the two-hour-and-forty-five-minute broadcast averaged 17.2 million viewers and a 9.7 household rating, a number that includes linear TV deliveries on NBC and its cable sibling NBCSN, as well as streaming via the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com. That marked a 14 percent decline from the 20 million viewers and 11.3 household rating NBC notched during the first night of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
It is perhaps worth noting that the 2014 Games did not include a live-streaming component or any concomitant cable coverage. As such, the PyeongChang vs. Sochi comps are weighing multiplatform results against traditional broadcast TV ratings.
NBC's final ratings numbers do not include out-of-home data, which provides an estimate of how many people watched the Olympics in venues such as bars, restaurants, gyms and hotels. NBC saw the overall TV audience of Super Bowl LII improve by a factor of 12 percent when its 12.2 million out-of-home viewers were added to a base of 103.4 million linear TV deliveries; should the network enjoy a similar lift in PyeongChang, its first night of coverage will have reached some 19.1 million TV viewers. (In that case, the decline from Sochi will have been reduced to a more manageable -4 percent.)
When the cable and streaming numbers are stripped out, the NBC flagship's Olympics coverage last night averaged 16 million viewers and a 9.0 household rating. Approximately 4.8 million of those viewers were members of the adults 18-49 demographic, while some 5.6 million adults 25-54 tuned in for the figure skating and freestyle skiing.
NBC's Thursday night Olympics audience peaked at 19.3 million viewers between 9 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. EST.
According to iSpot.tv, Chevrolet, Intel, Visa, Toyota, Universal Pictures ("Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," "Fifty Shades Freed") and McDonald's were among the biggest spenders during the first night of NBC's Olympics coverage.
NBC on Thursday issued a statement indicating that it has sold more than $900 million in national ad sales inventory for the 2018 Olympics.
The 2018 Winter Games continue tonight with the tape-delayed broadcast of the opening ceremony. NBC's got some big snowshoes to fill if it's to top some of its most recent Olympics spectacles; back in 2014, the Sochi opening ceremony drew 31.7 million viewers and a 17.0 household rating, which was down a hair from the 2010 Vancouver kickoff event (32.7 million/17.3 rating).