American television network NBC’s viewership for the opening week of the Winter Olympics is down seven per cent from the same period at Sochi 2014, it has been revealed.
According to NBCUniversal, the Games were averaging 22.6 million prime-time viewers a night through to Thursday (February 15), compared to 24.3 million during Sochi 2014.
Viewership is down despite the fact that this year’s ratings include not only NBC’s live coverage on its flagship broadcast network in prime time, but also its NBC Sports cable channel and its NBC Sports digital platforms.
During Sochi 2014, only NBC carried live coverage in prime time.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the audience for Olympic programming solely on the NBC broadcast network is down 16 per cent compared with four years ago.
Since 2014, the average prime-time audience for entertainment for NBC is down 5.6 per cent.
NBC Broadcasting and Sports chairman Mark Lazarus insists he is unconcerned by that figure, however.
"If you look at the total media landscape, if you’re down roughly five per cent over a four-year period, there’s nothing doing as well as that in television," he was reported as saying by The Wall Street Journal.
Dani Benowitz, executive vice-president of strategic investment at Magna Global, told The Wall Street Journal "the days of the ratings bonanzas are over".
"NBC’s Olympics coverage is 'delivering what I anticipated them to be delivering, maybe even slightly better'," he added.
On Thursday (February 15), NBC coverage dropped slightly from the previous day’s overnight ratings, earning a low for the year with a 13.0 rating among households.
It coincided, when taking into account the time difference, with disappointing performances from Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, a fourth-place finisher in the women’s slalom, and figure skater Nathan Chen, who ended up 17th in the short programme.
The 13.0 rating was a marginal improvement on Wednesday evening’s low of 13.1.
Pyeongchang 2018 is providing a considerable boost for the NBC Sports Network, however.
From last Saturday (February 10) through to Wednesday (February 14), NBC Sports’ prime-time audience average is 2.3 million - close to 10 times what it had been in the previous four weeks.
Last week, NBC took off air a commentator who made inappropriate comments as Japan marched at the Opening Ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018 on February 9.
Joshua Cooper Ramo, an Asian commentator for NBC, had claimed that Japan played an "important" role in South Korea's recent achievements as a country.
Ramo introduced Japan as "a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945" before adding that "every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation".
His comments sparked outrage on the internet and social media with Koreans demanding an apology from NBC.
In Australia, Seven Network has achieved some extremely strong viewing figures across its platforms.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, an average of 596,000 people have watched the Winter Olympics through their televisions each day on regular broadcast.
Sochi 2014, broadcast on Network Ten, earned an average of 319,000 viewers per day in the first week.
It is believed the less varied time zone here in Pyeongchang, compared to Sochi, is helping Seven Network’s cause.
In the first week of broadcast, 43 million minutes have been spent watching the Winter Olympics on Seven Network's streaming platforms.
Streaming figures are likely to eclipse those for tennis’ Australian Open, which amassed 90 million minutes last month.
"The growth is extraordinary," Seven Network’s chief digital officer Clive Dickens was reported as saying by The Sydney Morning Herald.
"In January, 90 million minutes were spent with the Australian Open, and we will see the Winter Olympics go over the 100-million minute mark.
"With tennis you can understand it - it's in Australia, it's tennis, it's [Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal.
"With the Winter Olympics, people are less familiar with the sports."