Aided in part by the record-setting gold medal hockey game in which Canada topped the U.S. by a 3-2 count in overtime, NBC reached some 190 million Americans who watched some part of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
With the Olympic flame now extinguished, the Vancouver Games surpassed the 187 million who screened some part of the 2002 quadrennial from Salt Lake City to rank as the second most-watched Winter Games, according to Nielsen data. NBC's presentation of the 2010 Olympics trailed only CBS's coverage from Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, which drew some 204 million to the competition that was heightened by the infamous Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding incident.
The Vancouver Games, which benefited from the 27.6 million average audience for the gold medal hockey game on Sunday afternoon, exceeded the 184 million viewers for NBC's coverage of the Winter Games from Torino, Italy in 2006 and Nagano, Japan in 1998, as well as CBS's telecasts from Albertville, France in 1992, all of which reached some 184 million watchers.
"The Olympics have yet again proved the power of the big events on network television," said Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, in a statement. "After an incredible journey for 17 days and nights, it brings us great joy to achieve this milestone, especially considering all the choices viewers have today. But our favorite measure is not how many viewers watched but how many lives were impacted. There is still no greater joy than thinking about the families who were captivated night-after-night by the record-breaking performance of Team USA and the remarkable stories of the athletes of the world."
The Feb. 28 closing ceremony averaged a 12.1 rating/19 share, 36% more than 8.9/13 for the final night from the 2006 Games, while the 21.4 million watchers on Sunday night were 45% more than the 14.8 million for the Torino finale.
NBC"s 24.4 million average viewers through for the Vancouver Games was 4.2 million more and 21% greater than the 20.2 million viewership of the 2006 Winter Games, while the 13.8/23 average household rating for the Games rose 13% over 2006's marks of 12.2/19.
Howewer, Vanouver was down 28% from Salt Lake City Olympics' 19.2 rating/31 share average in primetime. Average primetime viewership fell 24% from the 31.9 million average for the 2002 Games.