The Olympic bump is a real thing, and NBC Sports took full advantage of it.
The Sochi Olympics, its dog problem, eye-infecting air and winter sporting events have ended, leaving NBC and NBCSN with massive numbers about which they can brag.
NBCSN had its highest rated quarter (Dec. 30-March 30) in the network’s history, jumping a ludicrous 231 percent from 2013 with 215,000 total day viewers on average. With viewers tuning in at all hours of the day to watch luge or ski jump or hockey, NBCSN completely benefitted from the blanketing coverage: Not to mention that the network’s coverage was live, as opposed to the “Best Of” nightly NBC versions.
Even more important for the network – excluding the Olympics, NBCSN jumped 58 percent in ratings from 2013’s first quarter to this one, making that leap the largest among cable sports networks. But that factoid is a bit skewed. ESPN and its family of networks are mostly steady: Not too many programs make the overall numbers dip or rise drastically over a full quarter of ratings averages. CBS Sports Network hasn’t found much traction since its launch, and still remains unknown to the casual sports TV viewer. And Fox Sports 1 – the newest kid on the sports cable channel block – hadn’t launched when NBC had that marginal 2013 first quarter.
I’ve praised NBC Sports in the past for becoming a fantastic niche destination. With the live rights the network possesses, it has to cater to a very specific, normally very knowledgable fan base. No casual fan will wake up at 7 a.m. to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix F1 race. English Premier League ratings are the highest they have ever been on American cable, and NBCSN is on pace for its most-viewed full NHL season in the network’s history. The network still has yet to figure out its studio programming woes, however, but maybe Josh Elliott can fill two hours a day with his smile. Maybe NBCSN can give Rebecca Lowe her own show, she deserves it.
NBC Sports and NBCSN aren’t lacking in live sports as they enter the second quarter of the schedule, but there is a major difference between broadcasting hours and hours of Olympics and airing singular sporting events. Hopefully, for them, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, end of the Premier League season, French Open and more events can hold even a portion of the audience that watched the Sochi Games.