NBC Olympics Closing Ceremony Audience Drops 29% From Vancouver

NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics closing ceremony in Sochi, Russia, drew an average of 15.1 million viewers last night, down 29 percent from Vancouver four years ago.

The audience rose 2 percent from the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, NBCUniversal said today in an e-mailed statement, citing Nielsen data. The closing ceremony in Vancouver, which followed the 2010 gold-medal hockey game between the U.S. and Canada, averaged 21.4 million.

Last night’s ceremony, referencing Russian cultural icons such as Anton Chekhov, capped an Olympics in which ratings declined from Vancouver in 2010, when some events were seen live by U.S. audiences. Ratings rose from Turin. The games were a “tremendous success,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Stephen Burke told staff in a memo last week.

NBC averaged about 21.4 million viewers in prime time in Sochi, the network said, a 12 percent decline from the 24.4 million a night in Vancouver. Viewership surpassed the 20.2 million for Turin, where, like in Sochi, events took place early in the day for U.S. audiences.

“In 2011 we made a major commitment of over $4 billion for the Olympic Games through 2020,” Burke, 55, said in a Feb. 18 memo to staff. “The ratings and advertising sales for Sochi are making this look like a wise decision.”

NBCUniversal has also used the Winter Olympics to draw audiences to its websites, its cable channels, and to promote Jimmy Fallon, providing a lead-in audience as the comedian took over as host of “The Tonight Show,” Burke said said in the memo, obtained by Bloomberg News.

Cable Networks

NBC Sports Network was generating record ratings and 27 percent more people are watching online, Burke said.

In advance of Sochi, the entertainment division of Comcast Corp. booked more than $800 million in ad sales, while spending $775 million on the U.S. TV rights and committing about $100 million for the production.

Comcast, which plans to buy New York-based Time Warner Cable Inc. for $45.2 billion, rose 0.6 percent to $51.34 at 3:11 p.m. in New York. Through Feb. 21, the stock had fallen 1.8 percent in 2014.

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