(Reuters) -The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing attracted the smallest prime-time audience since NBCUniversal began broadcasting the games, according to viewership figures released by the network, amid a period of changing TV viewing habits.
NBC said its nightly coverage of the Beijing games attracted an average of 11.4 million prime time viewers, a 42% drop from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which brought a total average audience of 19.8 million viewers.
The closing ceremony drew just under 7 million prime-time viewers, according to preliminary estimates from NBC, which is a unit of Comcast Corp.
Its Peacock streaming service, however, logged its best 18-day period of usage during the games, attracting an average audience of 516,000 users in prime time, NBC said. The service offered 2,800 hours of coverage, including highlight videos of high-profile athletes such as U.S. gold medalists Chloe Kim, Erin Jackson and Nathan Chen, replays of events and viewing organized by sport.
USA Network, the NBCUniversal-owned cable network, attracted an average of 1.4 million prime-time viewers. Live coverage of the Winter Games helped USA Networks rank as the top sports and entertainment cable network in total day and prime time viewing since the opening weekend of the Beijing Olympics, NBC said, citing live-plus-same-day figures from Nielsen.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua issued a statement lauding the production team’s efforts in the face of the “unprecedented challenges over the past six months.”
Pandemic restrictions forced the competitions to take place in a bubble, leaving few spectators in the stands. The United States government staged a diplomatic boycott in protest of China’s human rights record.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles;Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Lisa Shumaker)