LOS ANGELES – US audiences for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, a competition marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, dropped to about half the audience for the 2012 London Games, according to data released by Comcast’s NBCUniversal. Corp on Monday.
The 17-day event averaged 15.5 million primetime viewers on the NBC streaming network and digital platforms, including streaming service Peacock, the company said in a statement. That represented the smallest audience for the Summer Games since NBC began broadcasting them in 1988.
The total fell below the 31.1 million viewers who watched the Summer Olympics in London through television and online media, and 26.7 million who tuned in to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, it said. an NBC spokesperson.
Comparisons to previous Olympics are imperfect due to different time zones, the pandemic, and few streaming options in the past. The Tokyo events, delayed by a year due to the global health crisis, were held without spectators and offered less than the usual spectacle.
NBCUniversal executives have said they expect to make a profit despite the downgrades. The contests still attracted the largest television audiences when aired, making them attractive showcases for advertisers.
“There is nothing more powerful in the media than 17 consecutive days of dominance at the Olympics,” NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua said in a statement. “Despite a series of curveballs having been thrown in the past 18 months, the power of the Olympics delivered to audiences on NBCU’s various platforms has proven to be unmatched.”
The company said viewers streamed nearly 6 billion minutes of Tokyo Olympics programming, a record for the Olympics, through NBC’s social and digital media platforms, the company said.
NBCUniversal streamed the Games over two broadcast networks, six cable networks, and multiple digital platforms, including Peacock. That left some viewers confused and struggling to find the events they wanted to see.
Some high-profile athletes were absent from major events. American superstar gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from five of her six events, citing concerns for her mental and physical health, and American sprinter Sha’Karri Richardson was disqualified after testing positive for marijuana.
The drop in television ratings reflects a trend among live events, including the Hollywood awards and sports championships.
NBC owns the US media rights to the Olympics until 2032. The next games, the Beijing Winter Olympics, will take place in February 2022. (Report by Lisa Richwine; Edited by Leslie Adler, Richard Pullin and Sonya Hepinstall)