Sochi Ratings: Up, Down And Around, But Still Dominant

Ad sales for the Sochi Winter Olympics will have easily topped $1 billion, when all is said and done. NBC paid $775 million for rights to the Games.

When NBC -- with sports rights fees soaring -- secured multiyear rights to the Winter and Summer Olympics some time ago, who would have predicted the network would now be making money? But, as with “Sunday Night Football,” NBC placed its sports bet on the right play.

The Olympics have continued to score well, even against Fox’s “American Idol.” Ratings for the 13-year-old “Idol” have been declining for some time, but that wasn’t always the case. During the 2006 Winter Olympics, “Idol” easily outdrew the NBC’s prime-time viewership. Then, in 2010, “Idol” slipped behind the Games.

Against the Olympics this year, “Idol” dipped to its lowest levels in over a decade. But it still had the highest ratings of any show against the Games.



NBC has touted better results for Sochi in comparison with the last European-based Winter Games – 20006, in Torino, Italy.  That’s because of similar time delays and lack of live programming. But the ratings were generally down versus the 2010 Vancouver Games.

In profitability, however, while other recent Olympics on NBC lost money or struggled to get into the black, the Sochi games came out ahead.

“We’ll be profitable, comfortably,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said during a dinner NBC hosted for Olympic advertisers last year. Though sports rights fees continue to rise, Lazarus said there is an ever-strong market when it comes to sponsors looking to get on board.

Why? Sports programming, for the most part, doesn’t get time-shifted.  Lazarus also said the Olympics have major factors in their favor: high ratings, as well as “family viewing” content. In today’s TV market, both of those attributes are tough to come by.

3 comments about "Sochi Ratings: Up, Down And Around, But Still Dominant".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, February 24, 2014 at 2:10 p.m.

    I have to take this report with a grain of salt the size of...Sochi? That might be apt considering the amount of salt they used to preserve their snow. I wouldn't believe any of NBC's pre-Olympics projections. The reports on numbers I've seen so far are down 9% to 35%, depending on the day and what the comparison is. One of the things I think you missed is that the entire prime time presentation is nothing but time shifted sports. With social media and online coverage, one has to purposely live in a cocoon to not know outcomes ahead of time.

  2. Chuck Lantz from, network, February 24, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.

    As an Olympics junkie, as well as a harsh critic, I'll add my two rubles on the Sochi games. NBC did an excellent job presenting the Winter Games, with a good balance between live presentations and replays, both on TV and online. Since we're all now aware of what media to avoid to not know the outcome, watching replays was simple. The fact that NBC management somehow managed to induce an "eye infection" on Bob Costas, which removed him for a few, wonderful, hyperbole-free days, was an extra plus.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 24, 2014 at 8:03 p.m.

    What there was this time - don't remember it from Vancouver - was that I could DVR the entire skating program live with great commentators, Weir and ( have a brain freeze) partner, rather than a small piece in the evening with some commentators with the dumbest comments over talking the sport. Same could be said of the other venues. So ratings ? You will never really know and that's the beauty of it.

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