Scott D. Pierce: Utahns were worst at watching the Super Bowl; we‘re still first in Olympic viewing

<b>Sports on TV • </b>Is it because Salt Lake City once hosted the Winter Games? That’s NBC’s guess.

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2018, file photo, a photographer walks down the steps underneath a large banner at the Gangneung Hockey Center ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea. Fresh off the Super Bowl, NBC begins more than two weeks of Winter Olympics coverage on Thursday, Feb. 8, with a new host, some new wrinkles and the hope that its business model keeps pace with the different ways people experience events on television and online. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Utahns trailed the rest of the nation in Super Bowl viewing; we’re leading America in Olympics viewing.

I don’t altogether get it. Neither does NBC.

On Feb. 4, we were last among 56 metered markets for the Eagles’ win over the Patriots. The Salt Lake TV market averaged a 37.7 rating for Super Bowl LII, 20 percent behind the national averaged (47.4).

The Olympics started four days later, and we’re No. 1.

It’s worth pointing out that, through the first 12 days of the Pyeongchang Winter Games, our average Olympic rating is about 41 percent below our Super Bowl rating. But that’s not a fair comparison, because nothing matches the NFL in TV ratings. (Even when they’ve dropped a bit.)

Over the past couple of decades, Utahns have watched the Olympics on TV more than anybody else. The Salt Lake TV market (which includes all of Utah and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada) has been at or near the top in terms of viewership for both the Winter and the Summer Games.

There are a number of theories about why, most centering on the fact that Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. But surely the folks at NBC have some sort of research that could tell us why that’s true, right?

Wrong. They’re making the same guesses as the rest of us.

You’re in an Olympic city, and there is a heritage around the Olympics,” said Mark Lazarus, NBC’s chairman of broadcasting and sports. “People know that and appreciate that. … It’s always been the case that Salt Lake has always given us a nice rating above what turns out to be our average.

So, yes, we’d like [every market] to be like Salt Lake City.”

It would seem there’s more to it than just that. Through Sunday, the Salt Lake TV market, which hosted an Olympics 16 years ago, is No. 1; the Los Angeles TV market, which will host its third Summer Games in 2028, is No. 17, with an average rating about two-thirds of Utah’s.

It’s worth pointing out that Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Games in 1995, and we began watching the Olympics in nation-leading numbers in 1996. L.A. won the rights to the 2028 Summer Games in 2017.

Lazarus suggested that perhaps the ratings remain strong here because Salt Lake is back in the Olympic mix; the city plans to bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Games.

Given the discussions that are taking place in your city and the potential of bids in the future, I think there is maybe a little even heightened sense of Olympism than in past Games,” Lazarus said.

As of this writing, we’re No. 1 for the 2018 Winter Games, averaging a 22.3 rating and a 41 share for NBC Sports’ prime-time coverage; Denver is second at 21.6/39.

A rating point equals 1 percent of TV-equipped homes in a market; a share point represents 1 percent of the homes where somebody is actually watching TV at a given time. NBC’s prime-time numbers are a combination of the viewership for the broadcast network (seen locally on KSL-Ch. 5) and for NBCSN on cable/satellite; they do not include online viewing.

Maybe there is something unquantifiable about Utah viewers. Maybe we really are different, although you’d be hard-pressed to make that case when the Olympics aren’t on TV.

Granted, some of this makes no sense. Why is viewership also high in Kansas City? In West Palm Beach?

But if I were running NBC, I’d want to know if there’s any explanation other than the obvious for the Salt Lake numbers, which are more than 90 percent above the national average some nights. And if there were something I could do to replicate this elsewhere.