PyeongChang Winter Games set a record for lowest-rated Olympics ever

The snow, stars, and sports of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang were thrilling, and even though they’re barely in our rearview, the ratings are in for the Olympics broadcasts on NBC. And the news could be a little better.

According to Variety, the 2018 Winter Games will go down as the least-watched Olympics in history. In primetime on NBC, the Olympics broadcasts averaged 17.8 million viewers a night, down 17 percent from 2014 and 27 percent from 2010. When numbers from the NBC Sports Network and NBC’s streaming platforms are included, the Olympics averaged 19.8 million viewers per night. That’s a 7 percent drop from their coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which averaged 21.3 million viewers per night.

Until PyeongChang, the lowest-rated Olympics were the 2006 Torino Games, which averaged 20.2 million viewers per night.

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are the least-watched in history. (AP)
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are the least-watched in history. (AP)

That 7 percent overall decline from the Sochi Olympics is especially important, since NBC didn’t offer additional viewing options in 2014. Despite offering streaming coverage and simultaneous broadcasts on NBCSN, NBC still saw its ratings slide.

There are plenty of reasons these Games didn’t do as well as even the 2006 Torino Games, which are no longer the least-watched Olympics ever. The time difference was an obstacle, even with the International Olympic Committee and the PyeongChang organizers adjusting the times of some events so they could be carried live in the United States. The streaming coverage offered by NBC was buggy and at times unreliable. And even though there were some thrilling gold medal finishes, the U.S. didn’t perform to expectations. The disappointments in figure skating, one of the most popular Winter Olympics sports, are of particular note.

There were some wins, though. Olympic viewership may be declining, but it still beat the competition handily. According to Variety, NBC’s Olympics broadcasts beat the programming on every other network without breaking a sweat.

The Pyeongchang Olympics were still the top-rated program on TV for more than two weeks, beating CBS, ABC, and Fox combined. The NBC-only primetime average viewership of 17.8 million surpassed Fox, CBS, and ABC combined by an average of 82%, the largest such advantage for any Winter Games.

Even though the PyeongChang Games were the least-watched ever, it’s not bad news for NBC. With live TV viewership continuing to drop and audiences fragmenting due to streaming options, a 7 percent overall decline is almost a victory.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher