© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Water Polo – Women – Group B – United States v Russian Olympic Committee – Tatsumi Water Polo Center, Tokyo, Japan – July 30, 2021. The Olympic rings are reflected in the pool. REUTERS / Kacper Pempel
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – US viewership for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, a competition marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, fell to around half that for the London Games in London, according to data from Comcast Corp (NASDAQ 🙂 Year 2012. s NBCUniversal on Monday.
The 17-day event averaged 15.5 million prime-time viewers on the NBC broadcast network and digital platforms, including the Peacock streaming service, the company said in a statement. That was 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 London Summer Olympics on TV and online channels and 26.7 million who tuned in for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, an NBC spokesman said.
Comparisons to previous Olympics aren’t perfect given the different time zones, the pandemic, and fewer streaming options in the past. The events in Tokyo, postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, took place without spectators and offered less of the usual spectacle.
NBCUniversal executives have announced they are making a profit despite falling valuations. The competitions still attracted the largest audience on television when they were broadcast, making them an attractive showcase for advertisers.
“There is nothing more powerful in the media than the 17 days of dominance at the Olympics,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement. “Although a number of curveballs have been thrown in the past 18 months, the power of the Olympics on offer to audiences across NBCU’s various platforms has proven unmatched.”
The company said viewers streamed nearly 6 billion minutes of the Tokyo Olympics programming, a record for an Olympics, across NBC’s digital and social media platforms, the company said.
NBCUniversal broadcast the games on two broadcast networks, six cable networks and several digital platforms, including Peacock. This left some viewers confused and struggling to find the events they wanted to see.
Some top-class athletes were absent from major events. U.S. superstar gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from five of her six events because of concerns about her mental and physical health, and American sprinter Sha’Karri Richardson was disqualified after testing positive for marijuana.
The decline in TV audience ratings reflects a trend in live events, including Hollywood awards shows 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.
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