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NBC Sports Group on Monday Press release was the headline:

NBC Tokyo Olympics presentation
– the greatest media event of all time –
offers a huge audience and dominates the media landscape

Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, raved:

“NBC’s flagship show once again led the way with the most watched TV night on all networks for 17 days, cable recordings on the USA Network, extensive Spanish-language coverage from Telemundo Deportes and unprecedented streaming consumption – including a surge in registrations, usage and awareness of Peacock. We were dominant on all platforms. Our Olympic presentation also has local news broadcasts on our own and affiliates for the rest of the company, including TODAY and Nightly News, and for our parks, including the Universal Orlando Resort – the home base of the great Friends and Family Watch Party , made unsurpassed advertising that we created with the USOPC. “

It was all true. NBC dominated US prime time television night after night, reaching an average prime time audience of 15.1 million on that station alone.

The network has reportedly made money, which is critical not only to his health, but also to his continued enthusiasm for his $ 7.75 billion contract for the 2022-2032 Olympics and Winter Games.

But overall prime-time viewers in the US – via NBC, US, NBCSN, CNBC, and the Golf Channel – have declined significantly from the Rio 2016, London 2012, Beijing 2008, and Athens 2004 Games:

● 2021 / Tokyo: 150 million US viewers ~ 15.6 million avg. Primetime audience
● 2016 / Rio: 198 million US TV viewers ~ 27.5 million avg. Primetime audience
● 2012 / London: 217 million US TV viewers ~ 31.1 million avg. Primetime audience
● 2008 / Beijing: 215 million US TV viewers ~ 27.7 million avg. Primetime audience
● 2004 / Athens: 203 million US TV viewers ~ 24.9 million avg. Primetime audience

Even the PyeongChang Winter Games in 2018 had a larger prime-time audience than Tokyo at 19.8 million (average) per night, 7% less than Sochi in 2014.

Perhaps most annoyingly, the range of the games has decreased significantly; Consider:

● 2021: 45.3% of the US watched coverage of Tokyo
● 2016: 61.3% of the US watched a Rio coverage
● 2012: 69.1% of the US saw coverage of London
● 2008: 70.7% of the US watched a report on Beijing
● 2004: 69.3% of the US saw coverage of Athens

Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t a huge issue for NBC. In a time of broken media attention, the Olympic program still features a huge audience that is not available anywhere else over a multi-day period. So it is still and will remain very valuable to advertisers.

But it should be of major concern to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee in Colorado Springs. The nationwide appreciation, interest and devotion to the games is waning.

In addition, the prime time viewership figures show that beyond general Olympic coverage, only one sport appeared to be really important to US viewers: women’s gymnastics. Checking the announced prime time viewers of NBC day by day and comparing them with the event schedule:

(1) 19.5 million on July 25th (Sun): Women’s gymnastics qualification
(2) 18.9 million on July 29th (Thu): All-round women’s gymnastics
(3) 16.9 million on August 3rd: (Tue): Women’s gymnastics beam finals
(4) 16.2 million on July 27 (Tue): Final of the women’s gymnastics group
(5) 16.1 million on July 26 (Mon): Women’s swimming 400 m freestyle

(6) 15.6 million on August 1st (Sun)
(7) 15.3 million on August 2nd (Mon)
(8) 15.2 million on July 24th (Sat)
(9) 15.0 million on July 30th (Fri)
(10) 14.5 million on July 28th (Wed)
(11) 14.4 million on July 31 (Sat)
(12) 14.2 million on August 4th (Wed)
(13) 12.9 million on August 5th (Thu)
(14) 12.0 million on August 6th (Fri)
(15) 10.5 million on August 8th (Sun): estimated
(16) 10.1 million on August 7th (Sat): estimated

The common theme in the four top rated shows was of course the American superstar Simone Biles, her dramatic exit from the competition during the team finals and what happened to her teammates. After gymnastics only the first one Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) The duel in the pool seemed to attract special attention from the spectators.

The estimated prime time viewer average for the final week of the Games, Sunday through Sunday, was 13.4 million versus 16.2 million for the first eight days of competition, indicating only modest interest in the featured athletics events. It’s also worth noting that due to the Tokyo schedule, many of the events were over long before they aired in U.S. prime time. This will be an issue again in Paris in 2024.

However, when athletics became available live, things went well on cable.

There was 28 hours of Olympic programming on cable that drew audiences of a million or more, all on either the USA Network or NBCSN. The top 10 (with programming, if known; * shows an estimate of the sports shown):

(1) 2.531 million in the US ~ July 25: Men’s Triathlon (live)
(2) 2.108 million in the US ~ Aug 04: Athletics Finals (live)
(3) $ 1.978 million ~ July 31: Athletics Qualifiers (live)
(4) 1,977 million in the US ~ Aug 01: Boxing and Weightlifting *
(5) $ 1.812 million ~ July 30: Athletics Qualifiers (live)
(6) 1.749 million in the US ~ July 25: Women’s Triathlon (live)
(7) $ 1.694 million ~ Aug 03: Athletics Qualifiers (live)
(8) 1.617 million in the US ~ Aug 07: Men’s Marathon (live)
(9) 1.559 million on NBCSN ~ July 24: USA vs. France men’s volleyball *
(10) 1.504 million in US ~ July 29: Athletics Qualifiers (live)

Those are good numbers, but over the same period of time more than two million viewers saw individual cable news programs every day and on 1. TUDN) had 2.796 million viewers, more than every single Olympic hour on cable.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Games are only six months away, again in the Asian time zones, and will be another benchmark for US interest in Olympic programs. The US will win medals but are looking to Norway to top the medal table again, with a surge from the host Chinese. Will the Americans be more interested than Tokyo or even less?

The worst that can happen to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which is now preparing for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, is that Americans no longer care about the Games. It’s another issue that the 16-person commission for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Games, due to begin meeting in October, will have to grapple with.

Rich Perelman

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