Tokyo Olympics: NBC’s primetime coverage down 47% from last summer games through five days

Media top headlines July 29

In media news today, the CDC gets hit by liberal media outlets for ‘confusing message’ on wearing masks, WaPo’s Max Boot gets ripped for tweeting Saudi Arabia is ‘more progressive’ than the U.S. for vaccine mandate, and NBC’s Tokyo Olympics coverage spurs ‘advertiser anxiety’ as viewers continue to drop

The women’s gymnastics team finals are often the most-watched night of NBC’s primetime Summer Olympics, but Tuesday’s Tokyo edition failed to meet the lofty expectations. 

NBC’s coverage averaged just shy of 14 million viewers, down 58% from the equivalent night of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics that attracted 33 million viewers. The decline is even worse compared to the 2012 London games that averaged 39 million viewers during the equivalent night. 

Declines among the key demographic of adults age 18-49 were even greater, as Tuesday’s coverage was down 67% from Rio and a staggering 74% compared to London. 

Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo.  (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

NBC’s costly investment was presumably impacted by legendary American Simone Biles pulling out of the event, along with a delayed telecast because of the significant time difference. However, the Tokyo Olympics have struggled to attract viewers since the start. 

The opening ceremony, delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew 16.7 million viewers for NBC on Friday, the smallest audience for the network broadcast since the 1988 Seoul Games. 

NBC averaged 12.6 million viewers on Saturday night, a 39% drop compared to the first Saturday of the 2016 Olympics and a 56% drop compared to the 2012 London Games. Monday’s telecast also shed 49% of viewers who tuned in for the first weeknight of primetime coverage from Rio. 

Through five days of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, NBC’s average primetime audience of 15.2 million viewers is down 47% from Rio in 2016 and 57% from London in 2012. The dramatic falloff has resulted in some critics blaming the polarized state of America on the lack of interest in the Olympics. 

“Half of the country isn’t proud of America. The other half dislikes the politicization of events like the Olympics. Couple the two, and we have a ratings disaster for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics,” Outkick media columnist Bobby Burack wrote on Wednesday. 

“These viewership declines are more complex than declines in other TV programming. First, certain problems have plagued all of TV: cord-cutting, Netflix, social media, YouTube clips, and decreasing attention spans,” Burack added. “On top of that, there’s the political divide, which is now front and center at a world event. Anything that represents America is now controversial. The U.S. flag triggers the left, while the social stances of some athletes turn off the right. Thus, almost everyone has lost interest in the Games.”

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