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Olympics put NBC on top in TV ratings

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The first full week of Winter Olympics coverage gave NBC its most-watched week since the 2008 Summer Olympics and its widest margin of victory in the prime-time ratings race during the official television season since the 2002 Winter Olympics.

With the Winter Olympics accounting for seven of the week’s 10 most-watched programs, NBC averaged 24.75 million viewers for its prime-time programming between Feb. 15 and Sunday. Fox Broadcasting was second, averaging 8.68 million viewers, according to figures released Tuesday by the Nielsen Co.

NBC averaged 26 million viewers for the first 10 nights of Vancouver, Canada, Olympics coverage through Sunday, 27% more than the 20.4 million average for the 2006 Winter Games, which were held in Turin, Italy.

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The Olympics also accounted for the week’s most-watched cable program, the United States’ 5-3 men’s hockey upset of Canada on MSNBC, which averaged 8.22 million viewers.

The game was the second-most watched program in MSNBC’s nearly 14-year history, behind only the 8.23 million for its 2008 election night coverage. It would have been 26th among the week’s programs on the five major broadcast networks.

The “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams,” the perennial network nightly newscast leader, also got a boost from the Winter Olympics, averaging 11.11 million viewers, its most since the week of Jan. 17, 2005.

USA was the most-watched cable network in prime time for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 2.76 million viewers. Its most-watched prime-time program was the final 66-minute segment of the professional wrestling program “WWE Raw,” which averaged 5.11 million viewers.


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