Olympics ratings down but still lead other prime time shows, NBC execs say

Pyeongchang Olympics Figure Skating Women
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond performs her routine at the Gangneung Ice Arena ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea.

Pyeonchang TV ratings are off 6 percent from the winter games in Sochi, Russia four years ago, NBC officials said Tuesday.

Over the first five days of the Olympics, the prime-time audience is about 24 million on television and cable.

But the Comcast-owned entertainment company expects overall TV and digital consumption of the games to be the highest ever for a winter Olympics as NBCUniversal floods its platforms with content for the duration of the games that sign off on Feb. 25.

The audience fall-off in the Olympics is part of a broader trend in sports viewership, with the NFL ratings down about 10 percent over the last season.

The Olympics remain the biggest event on television with an audience that is double or triple that of the combined audience of the other networks during prime time, said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting & Sports, in a conference call with journalists Tuesday.

He also said that ratings were doing better than NBC anticipated and matching the audience sizes that NBC guaranteed to advertisers. NBC had set aside some advertising to give to advertisers in the event of weak ratings and the need to “make good” on audience promises. But NBC made what it promised so “we can put [some advertising] back in the marketplace,” Lazarus said.

NBC has said that it will sell more than $900 million in advertising on broadcast television, cable and digital platforms for the games. Lazarus said the additional ad sales could bring in an additional few million dollars but won’t take the total advertising for the winter games to $1 billion for NBC.

The entertainment company has 2,000 employees in South Korea and an additional 1,100 employees at an NBC Sports facility in Greenwich, Conn.