It’s official. Just-released final data from BBM Canada confirms that last month’s Team Canada gold medal win is, without a doubt, the most-watched television broadcast in Canadian history, with a final audience of 16.7 million viewers. It was also confirmed today by Nielsen that, contrary to popular Canadian legend, the recent game delivered far more viewers than Game 8 of the classic Summit Series between Canada and the U.S.S.R. on , which had a total audience of 4.26 million viewers.
Vancouver 2010 gold medal game – 16,674,000 average viewers
Salt Lake City 2002 gold medal game – 10,300,000 average viewers
1972 Summit Series Game 8 – 4,255,000 average viewers
“There is no question the Vancouver 2010 gold medal game set an audience record for Canada, period,” said Jim MacLeod, president of BBM Canada. “Even if you take into account Canada’s larger population in 2010 compared to 20, the 2010 number is the largest by a comfortable margin. This just confirms the great support by Canadians for our Olympians.”
The purported television audience for the final game of the ’72 Summit Series has become legendary, with wild, unattributed rumours claiming anywhere from seven million to an incredible 18 million viewers watching the climactic Game 8, in which Paul Henderson scored the winning goal with 34 seconds left. Airing live at 12:30 p.m. ET on a Thursday afternoon on CBC, the country came to a halt as the nation watched, much like what happened at Vancouver 2010. But considering the Canadian population was only 22 million in 1972, suggestions of double digit audiences are improbable. CBC re-aired the game at 7:30 p.m. that night, attracting 4.07 million viewers, so even the combined audience (including the same viewers) is less than half of the audience for Team Canada’s historic 2010 win.
Unearthed from the Nielsen archives, the viewing data is the only accurate representation of the ’72 audience (BBM did not have a diary in the field during the time of the broadcast).
As previously announced, a peak audience of 22 million viewers (or the entire population in 1972) were watching when Sidney Crosby scored his “golden goal” for the overtime win at Vancouver 2010, while 26.4 million viewers watched some part of the match. The game captured an 85 share, meaning 85% of Canadians watching television at the time were watching the gold medal match. The game also delivered a 49.8 rating, meaning nearly half the Canadian population watched the entire game on average. The Canadian rating was five times that achieved in the U.S. (9.5) on NBC and its family of channels.