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Unlike the male-favored Super Bowl, the TV audience for the Winter Olympics is predominantly female, according to The Nielsen Company.

Through February 21, 2010, an estimated 56% of Olympic viewers are female, while 44% are male. Super Bowl viewership earlier this month was almost the exact opposite, with its audience composed of 54% males and 46% females.

Older, White Viewers Watch Olympics

  • Olympics ratings are clearly highest among older viewers. Ratings among teenagers are 57% lower than the national average for this year’s primetime Olympics broadcasts. Ratings among the 18-49 group are 20% lower than the national average, while ratings among those 55 and older are 82% higher.
  • Olympics viewing among ethnic minorities is considerably lower than it is for the population as a whole. Ratings among Hispanic and African-American viewers are each 74% below the national average. Asian ratings are 15% below the national average.
  • The Olympics are more widely viewed in the West Central region of the United States than any other part of the country. Ratings in this area are 24% higher than the national average. Viewership is lowest in the Southwest, where ratings are 28% lower than the national average.
  • Households that view in High Definition are more likely to watch the Olympics. About 55% of Olympic viewers are in HD-capable/receivable homes. Viewing in these homes is 14% higher. DVR households have similar viewership tendencies. About 41% of Olympic viewers are in DVR homes and have ratings 12% higher than the national average.

Differences and Similarities among Olympics, Super Bowl Viewers
Ratings among female Olympics viewers are 9% higher than the national average, while ratings among male Olympics viewers are 9% lower. In contrast, female ratings were 11% lower than the Super Bowl’s national average, while male ratings were 11% higher.

Much like the Olympics, ratings for the Super Bowl were highest among older viewers, although the difference is not as wide. Ratings among teenagers for the Super Bowl were 20% lower than the national average (compared to the 57% lower ratings for the Olympics). Ratings for the Super Bowl improve in older demographics, where the ratings are 6% higher than the national average in the 18-49 age group and 15% higher among those 55 and up.

Minority Interest Greater in Super Bowl
The comparison also found that a larger percentage of Super Bowl viewers were African-American, Hispanic, or Asian (23% compared to 11% for the Olympics). Ratings within the African-American and Hispanic markets were also higher in the Super Bowl when compared to the national average for each event. Ratings for African-American viewers were 18% lower than the national average for the Super Bowl while Hispanic ratings for the game were 49% lower. Asian ratings for both events were almost identical (16% below average for the Super Bowl vs. 15% below average for the Olympics).

Easterners Like Super Bowl
While ratings for the Olympics are highest in the West Central states, Super Bowl ratings were highest among viewers in East Central states. The lowest Super Bowl ratings were in the Pacific territory, which is showing 3% higher ratings for the Olympics compared to the national average.

Skiing, Hockey Garner Attention
Broken down by individual event, freestyle skiing, which includes men’s and women’s moguls competition, was the most popular Olympic sport among US TV weekend viewers through February 15, 2010, according to a previous minute-by-minute analysis of viewing conducted by Nielsen.

Nielsen reports that during NBC’s primetime broadcast coverage, an average of 26.9 million viewers watched the freestyle events in the first weekend of Olympic competition.

Downhill skiing was the second most popular sport, with an average of 26.7 million viewers watching coverage of the event. Luge coverage earned an average of 26.2 million viewers on NBC through the evening of Monday, February 15.

However, Nielsen analysis of Internet buzz from February 9-18, 2010 shows that hockey is the most discussed Olympic sport online. Among all online messages related to winter Olympic sports, more than 30% were linked to hockey. Luge generated the second highest amount of buzz over that time, with almost 18%, followed by figure skating with 10% of Olympics sports buzz.

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