Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Switzerland's Philipp Schoch competes during snowboard parallel slalom qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Scott D. Pierce: Utahns fall to No. 2 in Olympic TV watching
Silver medal » It’s the first time since 1998 that the Salt Lake TV market hasn’t been No. 1.
First Published Feb 28 2014 09:36 am • Last Updated Mar 01 2014 04:58 pm

Well, we finally lost our grip on the top spot in Olympics television viewing.

After bringing home the gold medal in Olympics TV viewing for seven consecutive Games — Summer and Winter — the Salt Lake television market slipped to silver in 2014. Local viewers (19.0) were beaten out by Minneapolis (19.4) — 2 percent.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

KSL averaged a 21.9 rating for the Vancouver Games. So we’re down about 13 percent from the last Winter Games.

What caused the dip this time around? Maybe no live events in prime time. Maybe local viewers were grossed out by Bob Costas’ pinkeye. But who wasn’t?

The fact remains that viewers in the Salt Lake TV market — which includes all of Utah as well as part of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming — are still far more interested in the Olympics than most of America. Nationally, NBC averaged a 12.3 rating; locally, KSL-Ch. 5 averaged a 19.0 rating — 35 percent above average.

Clearly, it has a lot to do with hosting the 2002 Winter Games. We had never been on top of the viewing heap before 2000, shortly before the Games came here.

And it’s no surprise interest remained high two or four years after the Salt Lake Games. But 10 or 12 years?

We are creatures of habit.

Like the rest of the country, our interest in 2014 waned going down the stretch. We were actually No. 3 when it came to watching the Closing Ceremony, 15 percent behind Minneapolis and 1.5 percent behind second-place Fort Myers, Fla.

Florida? Really?

story continues below
story continues below

Well, that TV market has a lot of older viewers. And, to NBC’s chagrin, the Olympics are increasingly a TV event for older viewers.

The average age of Olympics viewers in America this year was 55 — the oldest ever. And advertisers pay less to reach older viewers, particularly those outside the 18-49 and 25-54 demographic.

(That’s not fair and, perhaps, not smart. But it’s true.)

It might have been worse had the other networks put up much of a fight. But ABC, CBS and Fox aired mostly repeats against the Olympics.

AMC, on the other hand, aired "The Walking Dead" all three Sundays of the Games, and all three times beat the crud out of NBC in the 18-49 demographic. The Olympics attracted more viewers for the Closing Ceremony (15.2 million vs. 13.1 million), but "The Walking Dead" attracted more than twice as many viewers ages of 18- 49 (8.4 million vs. 4.1 million).

That may explain Salt Lake’s fall from the top of the Olympics viewing medal stand. Our population skews younger (to use the TV term) than the national average.

And younger viewers are less interested in watching the Olympics with each successive Games. Maybe the addition of ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle to Olympics events like curling helped stem the losses, but it certainly didn’t stop them.

A lot of younger viewers were streaming on their portable devices during the day and not watching the taped highlights at night. According to NBC, 61.8 million people watched the Games on a digital platform.

Which is good for NBC and good for future bidders.

But it hurts when TV audiences age. And if that trend doesn’t reverse, future Olympics may not be worth the huge sums NBC has paid.

Maybe not even a second Salt Lake Games, if we reach the point where that might happen.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.