Despite significantly lower viewership than 2016, the first three nights of prime-time coverage of the Tokyo Olympics enabled NBC to draw the largest weekly audience of any network since CBS aired Super Bowl LV.
NBC’s Sunday’s prime-time coverage averaged 16.862 million viewers, the most for any prime-time program since “Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special,” which averaged 17.813 million viewers March 7, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.
Friday’s prime-time replay of the opening ceremony — which was shown live Friday morning — averaged 11.976 million viewers, fourth among prime-time programs airing between July 19 and Sunday.
Viewership was down 54.8% from the 26.49-million average for the opening ceremony for the 2016 Rio Games, which were shown on a one-hour delayed basis in the Eastern and Central time zones where the bulk of the nation’s population lives.
Saturday’s coverage averaged 12.642 million viewers, second for the week.
NBC averaged 13.827 million viewers for the first three nights of coverage, 48.2% less than the 26.7 million-average for the first three nights of the Rio Games. While the Olympics’ viewership on NBC is down, it is setting streaming records, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement.
Official viewership for nearly all programming is down compared to the past, mainly because of increased viewing of streaming programming, including programming originally airing on traditional television.
NBC averaged 8.07 million viewers for the week, the most for any network since CBS averaged 18.09 million viewers the week of Feb. 1-7 when it aired Super Bowl LV.
ABC was second, averaging 3.48 million viewers, and CBS third, averaging 2.27 million. Fox was fourth, averaging 1.31 million for its 15 hours of programming. The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 530,000 viewers for its 12 hours of programming.
The most-watched non-Olympics program was ABC’s coverage the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship-clinching 105-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns last Tuesday which averaged 12.518 million viewers, third for the week.
The six-game series averaged 9.891 million viewers, 32.1% higher than the record-low average of 7.487 million for the Lakers’ six-game victory over the Miami Heat in the 2020 Finals, which faced unprecedented sports competition.
Viewership was down 34.6% from the 15.129-million average for the Toronto Raptors’ six-game victory over the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 Finals which were played in the traditional month of June.
ABC has carried the NBA Finals since 2003.
With four episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” accounting for each of the four most-watched prime-time cable programs and three episodes of “Hannity” each of the next three most-watched, Fox News Channel was the most- watched cable network for the third consecutive week, averaging 2.049 million viewers.
The Tuesday “Tucker Carlson Tonight” episode was the week’s most- watched cable program, averaging 3.108 million viewers, 20th for the week.
MSNBC was second among cable networks, averaging 1.214 million viewers for its prime-time programming. and HGTV third, averaging 1.068. The other cable networks to average more than 1 million viewers in prime-time for the week were USA Network, which averaged 1.052 million viewers, and Hallmark Channel, which averaged 1.008 million.
The most-watched Spanish-language program was Univision’s coverage of Mexico’s 3-0 victory over Honduras in a quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Gold Cup men’s soccer tournament Saturday which averaged 2.899 million viewers, 16th for the week.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 86th consecutive week and 88th time in 89 weeks, averaging 1.61 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 950,000 viewers, followed by UniMas (390,000), Estrella TV (100,000) and Azteca America (50,000).
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 86th consecutive week, the 137th time in 138 weeks and the 189th time in 191 weeks, averaging 7.546 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 6.036 million viewers, followed by the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” which averaged 4.613 million viewers.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s Sunday and Saturday Olympics coverage; ABC’s coverage of Game 6 of the NBA Finals; NBC’s coverage of the Olympics opening ceremony, the initial 30 minutes of Olympics coverage Saturday and “America’s Got Talent”; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; ABC’s “Celebrity Family Feud”; the Thursday episode of CBS’ “Big Brother” and ABC’s “The Bachelorette.”