With a night that saw the United States score a record haul of medals at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, NBC struck gold. According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, the Winter Olympics averaged a big 8.9 rating/23 share in adults 18-49 and 29.3 million viewers overall, up by about 65% over its performance on Tuesday night and soaring about 50% above the comparable night in Torino four years ago. These numbers are a bit below the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies last Friday, but they stand as the top night of Winter Games competition since Salt Lake City in 2002.
NBC couldn’t have scripted a stronger night of performances by the U.S., which ended up winning six medals Wednesday – the most ever in a 24-hour period by a country at the Winter Games. The primetime coverage included gold medal-winning performances by Americans Lindsey Vonn in the women’s downhill, Shaun White in the men’s halfpipe and Shani Davis in men’s speedskating.
The best hour for NBC on Wednesday came from 10 to 11 p.m. during the men’s snowboard halfpipe final, when its 10.1 rating/26 share in adults 18-49 and 31.2 million viewers overall more than tripled the combined delivery in the timeslot by repeats on ABC and CBS.
The Olympics also dominated the 9 o’clock hour (9.0/22 in 18-49, 30.1 million viewers overall) over Fox’s “American Idol” (6.9/17 in 18-49, 18.4 million viewers overall), handing the megahit reality competition series its first timeslot setback in 18-49 since NBC’s “Fear Factor” beat it in May 2004. “Idol” was down about 25% vs. its Wednesday score of last week.
Don’t feel too badly for Fox, though, as “Idol” held up pretty well considering and still delivered a number that tops all non-“Idol” entertainment series telecasts of this season.