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NBC Averages 11.7 Million Viewers for Winter Olympics Across All Platforms

For the “nobody watched the Winter Olympics” crowd, NBC can still boast that the Beijing Games drew the highest primetime audience since last September besides NFL telecasts.

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The consensus expectation among sports media and TV observers was that ratings for the 2022 Winter Olympics would be lower than its predecessors for NBC. Perhaps even the lowest ever.

One day after the closing ceremony in Beijing, the numbers are in and met those lowered expectations. According to NBC, the network averaged 10.7 million viewers per night during the Winter Games. Across all platforms, including USA Network and streaming numbers on Peacock, that number increased to 11.4 million.

The previous Winter Games in PyeongChang averaged 17.5 million live and same day primetime viewers and increased to 18.2 million when one week of delayed viewing was counted. (Streaming wasn’t as much of an option for viewers in 2018.) So the Beijing Games suffered a 39 percent drop in audience by comparison.

Last year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics averaged 15.6 million viewers across television and digital platforms. At the time, those were the lowest numbers ever for an Olympic Games. (And the PyeongChang numbers were the lowest before that, so you can see the downward trend.)

A number of factors will surely be cited for the decline in viewership. There was a lack of interest in the Winter Games just six months after the COVID-19 delayed Summer Games were held. Concern and protest over China’s human rights violations were certainly a consideration. And the 13-hour time difference between Beijing and the U.S. Eastern time zone meant results were known long before they could be shown in primetime.

TV viewership in general has decreased during the pandemic, while viewers have many more options to consider with streaming platforms with shows and movies that are in the cultural conversation more than the Winter Olympics.

But for the “nobody watched the Winter Olympics” naysayers, NBC can still boast that the Beijing Games drew the highest primetime audience since last September for anything besides NFL telecasts (Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights).

And some media observers, such as Sports Business Journal‘s John Ourand, believe future Olympics telecast will be on the upswing with less of a time difference in Paris and Italy, followed by the 2028 Summer Olympics being held in Los Angeles.

Sports TV News

ESPN Creates ACC/SEC Challenge

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports.

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ESPN, in conjunction with the ACC and SEC, is slated to announce the creation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball.

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports. That number will grow to 30 contests when the SEC expands for the 2025-2026 season.

Every game in the challenge will be aired on an ESPN platform, with each side hosting the same amount of home games.

The creation of the event comes on the heels of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS, ending a nearly four-decade relationship with ESPN. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, with the SEC/Big 12 Challenging beginning in 2013. Both events will cease to exist following this season.

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Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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