Olympics ratings down, but streaming takes the gold

Two people in Olympics outfits light the cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
China’s athletes Dinigeer Yilamujian and Zhao Jiawen light the cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
(Jae C. Hong/Associated press)

Viewership for the start of NBC’s coverage of the Beijing Winter Olympics was down 55.3% from comparable coverage of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games with the opening ceremony sinking to a record low.

However, there was a record amount of streaming viewing, with total digital usage of Beijing Olympics coverage through Sunday topping 1 billion minutes, according to data from Adobe Analytics released by NBC.

The Thursday, Saturday and Sunday prime-time coverage and Friday’s prime-time rebroadcast of the opening ceremony averaged 9.815 million viewers, compared to the 21.976 million average for the first four nights of the 2018 Olympics, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.


Friday’s prime-time rebroadcast of the opening ceremony averaged 10.758 million viewers, erasing the previous low for a Winter Olympics opening ceremony, 20.1 million for the 1988 Calgary Games, which was broadcast by ABC.

Viewership was down 61.4% from the 27.837 million average for the 2018 opening ceremony, which was also televised by NBC.

Official viewership for nearly all programming is down compared to the past, mainly because of increased viewing of streaming programming, including programming originally airing on traditional television.

Viewers spent 190 million minutes watching streaming coverage Friday, the most for an opening ceremony day for a Summer or Winter Games.

The opening ceremony drew the third-largest audience for an entertainment program since March, behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (25.4 million) and the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony (11.976 million), which both aired on NBC. And finished second among prime-time programs between Jan. 31 and Sunday, trailing only Sunday’s Olympics coverage, which averaged 10.999 million.

Olympics programming accounted for five of the week’s top six programs. The only non-Olympics program to top 7 million viewers was the CBS crime drama “FBI,” fifth for the week, averaging 7.543 million viewers.


The four nights of Olympics coverage enabled NBC to average 7.13 million viewers for its prime-time programming for the week, more than the combined averages for CBS (3.51 million) and ABC (2.61 million).

Fox finished fourth among the English-language broadcast networks, averaging 2.29 million viewers for its 15 hours, six minutes of prime-time programming. The CW averaged 440,000 viewers for its 14 hours of programming.

NBC, CBS and ABC each broadcast 22 hours of prime-time programming.

CBS’ “Young Sheldon” was the most popular comedy for the 18th consecutive week, with a rerun averaging 4.861 million viewers, 11th overall. The CBS crime drama “FBI: International” was the highest ranked first-season series, averaging 6.266 million viewers, to finish eighth.

“FBI: Most Wanted,” which followed “FBI: International,” won the 10 p.m. timeslot, averaging 5.939 million viewers, 10th overall.

Fox’s prime-time ratings leader was the procedural drama, “9-1-1: Lone Star,” ninth for the week, averaging 6.006 million viewers. Fox’s other program among the week’s top 27 was its coverage of Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum auto race, 14th for the week, averaging 4.283 million viewers.

“America’s Funniest Home Videos” was ABC’s biggest draw, 13th for the week, averaging 4.441 million viewers.


The superhero series “Superman & Lois,” had The CW’s biggest audience for the third time in the four weeks it has aired this season, averaging 781,000 viewers, 143rd among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.

The top 20 prime-time programs consisted of five Olympics programs, seven CBS entertainment programs; the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes”; two NBC entertainment programs — “This Is Us” and the special, “Celebrating Betty White: America’s Golden Girl”; the ABC alternative programs “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Judge Steve Harvey”; Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” and the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum auto race; and the Monday edition of the Fox News Channel political talk show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

For the second consecutive week, the five editions of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” topped the list of all cable programs, led by the Monday edition that averaged 3.822 million viewers, 20th for the week.

Fox News Channel won the cable network race for the third consecutive week following four consecutive second-place finishes behind ESPN, averaging 2.478 million viewers. USA Network was second, averaging 1.391 million viewers, and MSNBC third, averaging 1.211 million.

CNN was 17th for the second consecutive week, averaging 546,000 viewers, 3.4% more than then 528,000 it averaged the previous week.

CNN also trailed HGTV (1.168 million), ESPN (1.019 million), TLC (934,000), Hallmark Channel (837,000), History (806,000), Food Network (743,000), TNT (719,000), Discovery (705,000), TBS (635,000), Lifetime (609,000), Investigation Discovery (595,000), A&E (583,000) and Travel Channel (564,000).


The top 20 cable programs consisted of 14 Fox News Channel political talk shows — five broadcasts each of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Hannity” and four of “The Ingraham Angle”; three editions of the MSNBC news and opinion program “The Rachel Maddow Show”; the TLC series about couples who have built a relationship online but not met in person, “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days”; History’s long-running chronicle of a search for treasure on a Canadian island, “The Curse of Oak Island” and USA Network’s Saturday night Olympics coverage.

“The Tinder Swindler” was last week’s most-streamed English-language movie on Netflix, with viewers spending 45.8 million hours watching the true crime documentary in its first five days of release, according to figures released by the streaming service today.

The comedy “Home Team,” inspired by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton coaching his sixth-grade son’s team during his suspension for his involvement in the Bountygate scandal, was second for the second consecutive week 33.63 million hours watched in its first full week of release, 59.8% more than the 21.05 million hours watched the previous week when it was available for three days.

Netflix’s most popular television program was “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” with 60.48 million hours watched of the eight-episode comedy mystery in its first full week of release, 50.1% more than the 40.08 million hours watched the previous week when it was available for three days.