NBC shipped much of its Olympic hockey coverage to its cable stations with fears of poor ratings, but that didn’t stop Americans from tuning in on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Game 7 defeat of the Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup brought eight million sets of American eyes to NBC — then a 36-year high — only to be outdone Sunday by MSNBC. The game was also the largest audience to ever to tune into the cable news network, edging 2008’s election night coverage, 8.23 million to 8.22 million viewers.
If the game had been on the flagship network, it almost assuredly would have smashed television records. NBC’s Olympic coverage during the USA-Canada time slot drew more than 23 million people, who saw a smorgasbord of events from skier-cross to figure skating.
A network slot would also have given Ryan Miller, Brian Rafalski and friends a chance to unseat usual Sunday night ratings heavyweight Desperate Housewives, which outdrew Olympics back in 2006 by 1.5 million viewers. The ABC show fell well short of the Olympics this year, with 10.9 million viewers during the 9-10 p.m. time slot, far fewer than NBC’s 24.7 million.
The ratings record is impressive for now, but if Team USA can make it to a potential gold-medal game rematch with Canada, you can bet that a couple more people might find some time to flip on their TVs.
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