Early Olympics ratings in Canada up over 2014 Sochi numbers

The vast difference in time zones between Canada and South Korea does not appear to have dimmed interest in the Winter Games.

Ratings for the opening weekend of the Pyeongchang Olympics were up in Canada compared to the first few days of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Canadian prime-time audience for the first three nights of the Pyeongchang Winter Games averaged 2.8 million viewers, slightly ahead of the 2.7 million watching over the same period during the Olympics in Russia.

According to data generated by the ratings services Numeris and InfoSys+TV, 23.4 million Canadians watched at least part of the Olympics broadcasts this past weekend across all English and French television network partners and digital streaming platforms.

This despite the fact that Pyeongchang is 14 hours ahead of Toronto and 17 hours ahead of Vancouver.

The gain in viewership is also notable given the general decline in broadcast ratings over the past few years.

``Once a Maple Leaf is on the chest or on the back, one thing we've learned, regardless of age or gender, is that people are going to find a way to watch,'' said Greg Stremlaw, CBC's head of sports and general manager of the Olympics, in an interview leading up to the Winter Games.

That was true last Saturday night, when Saskatchewan native Mark McMorris and Quebecer Max Parrot were medal winners in the men's slopestyle snowboarding final. They had the peak, most-watched moment on Day 1 of the competition, drawing 3.4 million viewers at 9:28 p.m. ET. The event was seen live in Canada in prime-time, even though it occurred on Sunday morning in South Korea.

The same scheduling break allowed for two other strong Canadian showings in prime-time. Team figure skating dominated on Day 2, with peak viewership of 3.6 million at 9:57 p.m. ET.

A total of 9.5 million viewers in Canada caught some of the event. The semifinal mixed curling win by Canada over Norway peaked at 3.3 million viewers about an hour earlier the same night.

The public broadcaster is able to boast that nearly one-third of all Canadians watched at least some of CBC/Radio Canada's coverage of the opening ceremony last Friday.

The actual live average audience, however, was less robust. With a 6 a.m. Toronto start time, the three-hour ceremony drew an average of 1.3 million viewers across CBC/Radio Canada's English  and French broadcast and digital platforms, as well as coverage on CBC News Network, TSN, Sportsnet and RDS.

An encore broadcast at 7 p.m. on SRC (822,000 viewers) and a 9 p.m. repeat window on CBC and Sportsnet Ontario (1.54 million) pulled in additional viewers. Add up the early morning live window and the evening encores and CBC is able to report a combined, average minute opening ceremonies audience of 3.7 million across Canada.

The peak, most-watched moment during the live opening ceremony broadcast (across all partner networks) was at 8:09 a.m. ET with two million viewers catching the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.