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A lifetime of dedication led 2,897 international athletes with visions of glory to Beijing for the 24th Winter Olympic Games last month. Across 19 days of competition in the Chinese capital, 12 competition venues played host to 109 total medal events spanning 15 disciplines of winter sport. Americans tuned in from halfway around the globe to watch homegrown stars such as Nathan Chen and Erin Jackson achieve their Olympic dreams, while also enjoying snowboarder Shaun White’s swan song in the halfpipe. 

Throughout it all, MVP monitored viewership for the Games broadcast on NBC as well as social discussions on Twitter to highlight which sports garnered the greatest attention and where they were most popular. This report details minute-to-minute viewership trends during NBC's primetime coverage — which featured 12 winter sports from February 4th through February 20th — and key social insights regarding one of the most high-profile events of the Olympiad.
Average Viewership
Just Bobbing Along

The most-watched block of the Beijing Games received a significant boost thanks to the program that preceded it. A multitude of sports fans across the U.S. spent the afternoon of February 13 fixated on Super Bowl LVI. Its broadcast served as a perfect precursor to Olympics coverage, which featured the debut of women’s monobob.

Reaching New Heights

Post-Super Bowl Olympics coverage drew more viewers than any other 2022 Winter Games broadcast on NBC. An average of 25.73 million fans witnessed consecutive instances of Olympics history as women’s monobob made its initial appearance at the Games and Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to win Gold in speed skating.

Lapping the Field

As Jackson was speeding past her rivals at the rink, NBC was enjoying viewership numbers that far outpaced every other night of competition. The average audience for the network’s shortened window of coverage was 2.21x higher than the 11.62 million it earned across all other primetime broadcasts during Beijing 2022.

Contextualizing the Crossover

While the boosted viewership numbers in the wake of Super Bowl LVI were evident, the crossover effect was far from universal. An average of 71.16 million households watched the NFL’s title game, with 63.8% of those shunning the winter sports coverage that followed.

Dropping Into Retirement

When halfpipe hero Shaun White carved powder at the bottom of the hill on February 10th, his Olympic career was complete. White would ultimately finish fourth in the men’s snowboard halfpipe final at Beijing 2022, but his name resounded online much more voluminously than those of the event’s medal winners. We examined U.S.-based tweets spanning February 10th and 11th to highlight White's social significance.

Scherrer’s Silent Success

Swiss Jan Scherrer received little fanfare following his first Olympic medal in three appearances. Though the official Olympics account recognized his achievement on Twitter, it was one of only eight original tweets marking the achievement during the event’s coverage on NBC.

Silver for SJ

Scotty James of Australia bested his Bronze medal from PyeongChang 2018 by finishing second in the men’s halfpipe last month in Beijing. Fans across the U.S. mentioned the Melbourne native in 108 original tweets during the 9 p.m. EST hour on February 10.

Third Time’s a Charm for Hirano

After earning Silver in each of the previous two Winter Games, Ayumu Hirano finally achieved his crowning Olympic moment. Although Hirano completed a trick that had never been landed in the Olympics during his penultimate trip down the halfpipe, he still sat in second place with one run remaining. Social discussions referencing the perceived slight were among the 996 original tweets about Hirano during the event’s final hour. But he nailed an epic run at the end to put the controversy to rest and win his first Olympic Gold.

A Legend’s Final Run

Shaun White is the most decorated men’s snowboarder in Olympic history, but it was his fourth-place finish that will leave a lasting impression on fans who have followed his journey for nearly two decades. The American may have come up just short in his bid for one more medal, but his impact was palpable to those watching, and it resulted in 3,571 original tweets during concluding coverage of his last event.

Broad Board Coverage

The popularity gap was even more pronounced when including all tweets. By adding retweets, quote tweets, and replies to the originals citing each of the top four finishers, MVP found Shaun White was mentioned 9,638 times on Twitter during NBC’s coverage of the event final – more than all three of his counterparts combined, and 3.58x more times than the Gold Medal-winning Hirano.

Shaun White
Ayumu Hirano
Scotty James
Jan Scherrer
Leaving a Lasting Impression

Shaun White’s last Olympic appearance resulted in Twitter mentions from 27,370 unique users creating more than 1.27 billion impressions during the 48 hours beginning at 12 a.m. EST on the day of the event final. 

27,370 users who posted
43,196 mentions / total tweets
1,272,466,820 estimated impressions
Regional Relevance

MVP’s heat map below highlights the most popular events among each of the United States’ 210 designated market areas. An overwhelming portion of the country favored snowboarding, though Utahns yearned for the flair of freestyle skiing and fans in the Twin Cities coveted speed on ice. We encourage you to hover over your region to learn what drew the interest of your community.

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