TV viewership altogether is down since the last winter games.
On average, 19.8 million people watched watched NBC’s* primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang this year — 7 percent fewer than the previous winter games in Sochi.
Only two days of the entire 18-day PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics were more popular than Sochi: The second Tuesday (women’s alpine skiing) and the final Saturday (figure skating gala).
On every other day, Sochi beat — or in one case tied — PyeongChang in viewership, including online. Some 3.4 million more people watched the Sochi opening ceremonies than watched those in PyeongChang. The closing ceremony Sunday had 400,000 fewer viewers than Sochi.
Of course, TV viewership altogether is down, with fewer people paying for traditional subscriptions. In fact, the built-in viewership for TV has decreased since Sochi. The number of pay TV subscribers in the U.S. dropped over 6 percent to 93.8 million in 2017, down from 100 million in 2015.
Olympics viewership has been in decline for years, while the cost to air the Olympics has risen — a trend happening across TV.
NBC paid $ 963 million for domestic rights fees for PyeongChang, up about $ 200 million from what it paid for the last Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, NBC has already made much of that back, banking more than $ 900 million in ad sales, a Winter Olympics record according to the network.
This was the first year NBC simultaneously aired TV and streaming versions of the Olympics. People could also watch competing cable broadcasts on NBCSN. Both of these are included in the PyeongChang viewership numbers NBC provides.
* NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site. Vox Media has also collaborated with NBCUniversal on The Podium, a podcast series about the Olympics.
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