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Vancouver surpasses Salt Lake City in NBC Winter Olympics viewership

March 1, 2010 |  3:04 pm

Vancouver According to the Nielsen ratings released by NBC on Monday afternoon, 190 million people watched some part of the Olympics on the various networks of NBC, making it the second-most-watched Winter Games.

The Vancouver Games surpassed the 2002 Salt Lake City Games but trailed the 1994 Lillehammer Games, which were highlighted by the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan controversies. The Lillehammer Olympics had 204 million viewers; the Salt Lake City Olympics had 187 million.

During the 17 nights of Olympic coverage that ended Sunday, NBC drew more total viewers than ABC, CBS and Fox combined. The Games beat "American Idol" once, the first time since 2004 that the Fox's juggernaut show has been bested. 

Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports, said: "It’s important to note how truly dominant our performance is because of the many choices available in the world today. At the time of the Lillehammer Games, the average home had less than 40 channels, but today the average home has 130, more than three times 1994, plus the Internet then was still in its infancy. What makes our performance here even more impressive in this age of so many choices on so many media platforms is the fact that we are averaging more than two million more viewers each night than the other three networks combined.”

Sunday's coverage of the closing ceremony got 21.4 million viewers, up 45% from the 2006 closing ceremony in Turin. During the 9-10 p.m. viewing window, the Olympics averaged 20.8 million viewers as opposed to ABC's new episode of "Desperate Housewives" (10.8 million) and CBS' "Undercover Boss" (15.1 million). 

The top 10 markets overall in the 17-day average of Olympic viewing: (1) Salt Lake City; (2) Denver; (3) Milwaukee; (4) Seattle; (5) Minneapolis; (6) St. Louis; (7) Columbus; (8) San Diego and West Palm Beach; (10) Portland. Los Angeles ranked 48th of 56 measured markets.

-- Diane Pucin