Tokyo Olympics Viewership Is Down On NBC

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Japan's Sakura Yosozumi competes in the women's park skateboarding competition at the Tokyo Olympics
Japan's Sakura Yosozumi competes in the women's park skateboarding competition at the Tokyo Olympics

Although the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has received an extensive amount of coverage on television and online, NBC has experienced a steep decrease in viewership with the latest games.

The network’s best night last week was on Thursday when 16.2 million viewers tuned in, which was still 43% down compared to the audience that watched the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Last Tuesday, NBC was down in viewers by 58% compared to the Rio Olympics. Meanwhile, the network was down by 53% on Wednesday, followed by a 57% drop on Saturday night.

“We’ve had some bad luck,” said Jeff Shell, the chief executive at NBC Universal. “There was a drumbeat of negativity ... and that has resulted in linear ratings being probably less than we expected.”

While the time difference in Japan, COVID-19 restrictions, and other factors affected NBC’s viewership, its lower numbers slightly improve when streaming and cable network audiences are taken into consideration.

The games also saw a jump in viewership thanks to new events like rock climbing, skateboarding and surfing, which saw a notable increase in audiences from Brazil.

Rock climbing in particular appeared to be an especially popular event.  Romain Thevenot, the chair of Sport Climbing Australia, told The Guardian the interest in the new event may inspire people to consider training for the sport.

“It’s been a long road,” he says. “The international federation has been working towards it becoming an Olympic sport for more than 10 years. So it’s a big gamechanger for the world of climbing, and it’s also a big gamechanger for the world of climbing in Australia.”

So far, the viewership projections appear to indicate that the Tokyo Games are the least-watched Olympics in U.S. and European history.


Japan's Sakura Yosozumi competes in the women's park skateboarding competition at the Tokyo Olympics

Photo: AFP / Lionel BONAVENTURE

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