NBC carried "bonus" coverage of the Winter Olympics ahead of Friday's opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia, easily beating the other broadcast networks, though other high-rated shows including "American Idol" and "Big Bang Theory" held relatively steady against the sports competition.
Time zone-adjusted numbers haven't been released yet, but in Nielsen's 56 metered markets, the Olympics garnered an 11.8 rating (18% share of households watching TV) in prime time. That's the best broadcast metered market result for a Thursday night since NBC's coverage of the 2013 NFL kickoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos. Comparisons to previous Olympic Games are difficult because of the unusual scheduling.
A comedy-driven CBS was the second-highest rated broadcaster as "The Big Bang Theory" drew 10.9 million viewers and a rating of 5.0 among key 18-49-year-olds, down just 4% from last week against the Sochi telecast.
"The Millers" rose a bit week to week to a 2.7 in the advertiser-desired young adults demographic, while "The Crazy Ones" and "Two & a Half Men" fell 11% and 10%, respectively. "Elementary" dropped slightly to a 1.8.
On Fox, "American Idol" was down just barely from last week, drawing 10.9 million people and a 3.0 in 18-49.
ABC's "The Taste" fell 9% to a 1.0 and cooked up 3.2 million viewers.
National ratings for late night talk shows won't be released until later Friday, but overnight returns indicate an expectedly big result from Jay Leno's send-off from "The Tonight Show" on NBC, which featured Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks as guests. In metered markets, "The Tonight Show" scored a household rating of 9.2, the best since 2009's visit from President Obama. That episode generated an 11.3.
Incoming "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon posted his biggest number ever after the Leno lead-in (4.2).