NBC announced Tuesday that its coverage of the 2014 Sochi Games reached more Americans through more platforms than any previous Winter Olympics.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, recently expressed mild frustration that media outlets tend to focus on ratings data for primetime television, which while still the dominant way of reaching viewers now is only one piece of a vast, complex coverage puzzle. Hence an NBC news release summing up its Olympics performance that ran 1,880 words.
Among the highlights were demolishing the primetime broadcast competition on a nightly basis not only in overall households but also in the important age 18-49 demographic -- in part because this time around NBC's competitors mostly decided not to compete vigorously and rather to hold many of their original programs for after the Games.
Also, 61.8 million unique users consumed digital content from NBC, highlighted by the United States-Canada men's hockey semifinal.
The average prime time viewership for the Games' 17 nights (not including the bonus night of Feb. 6) was 21.4 million - down from the mostly live coverage from Vancouver in 2010 but up 6 percent from the last European Olympics in Turin in 2006. The Vancouver Games averaged 24.4 million viewers in prime time.
"The Olympics continue to be a must-see property on television," Lazarus said in the release. "However, as we saw beginning with the 2012 London Games, Americans have clearly expanded their viewing patterns. In addition to the tremendous audiences that tuned in to our curated primetime coverage on NBC, we set records on a near-daily basis for live coverage on our digital platforms and our cable networks, particularly NBCSN, which regularly achieved ratings and viewership milestones.
"The Sochi Winter Games took place in the largest country in the world with the most events ever, and we are pleased that Americans overwhelmingly chose to bring us into their living rooms - and onto their laptops, tablets and mobile devices - for what was an exhilarating and gratifying 18 days."
NBC averaged 12.3 percent of homes for its primetime coverage, 32 percent better than the combined totals of ABC, CBS and Fox. NBC also beat the combined competition by 45 percent in viewership. The network won every night of the Olympics compared to 14 of 17 in 2010 and eight of 17 in Turin, in part because of lesser competition compared with what it used to face in the heyday of Fox's "American Idol."
The Feb. 17 telecast that included Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning the ice dancing gold medal averaged 23.5 million viewers.
NBC presumably would have performed even better if not for the injuries or failures of some of the United States' biggest-name Olympians, including Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White.
Jimmy Fallon debuted Feb. 17 as the host of "The Tonight Show," which that week averaged 8.5 million viewers - its most-watched week since May of 1993, the week of the "Cheers" finale.
The U.S.-Canada men's semifinal averaged 2.7 percent of homes, making it the highest-rated hockey game in NBCSN history.
Minneapolis topped the 56 major markets Nielsen measures with an average 19.4 percent of homes for the Games, followed by Salt Lake City at 19.0. New York ranked 41st at 12.0.
Miami ranked last.