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U.S. Ratings for the Olympics Hit Record Lows

NBC Tokyo Olympics
(Image credit: NBC Sports)

NEW YORK—NBCUniversal has released data showing that ratings for the Tokyo Summer Olympics fell to record lows, with an average 15.5 million primetime viewers. That’s half the 31.1 million that watched the 2012 games, and the lowest ratings since NBC started airing them in 1988. 

But the games, which were viewed by about 150 million Americans over their two week run, also saw record levels of streaming, with nearly 6 billion streaming minutes consumed across NBC Olympics digital and social media platforms. The record levels of streaming pushed Peacock to its best two weeks of usage ever. 

The lower ratings also occurred in an increasingly fragmented viewing landscape where live broadcast audiences continue to erode, which made the reduced viewing levels notably higher than other prime-time programming this summer.  

With a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 15.5 million primetime viewers, according to Nielsen and Adobe Analytics, NBC Olympics has ranked #1 in primetime for 135 consecutive Summer Olympic nights and it ranked #1 on television in every hour and quarter hour of primetime for each of the 17 nights (based upon preliminary data for 8/7-8/8) of the games, regularly doubling and tripling the combined viewership of its competitors, the company said. 

The games also pushed USA Network to record levels, ranking as the #1 sports and entertainment cable network in primetime throughout the games.

In a statement Mark Lazarus, chairman, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming noted: “Nothing brings NBCU together more than the Olympics, and no single property has a greater positive effect on our entire company. The power of the NBC flagship broadcast again led the way with the most-watched night of TV across all networks every night for 17 days, cable records on USA Network, extensive Spanish-language coverage by Telemundo Deportes, and unprecedented streaming consumption – including sharply increasing signups, usage and awareness of Peacock. We were dominant across every platform. Our Olympic presentation has also provided unmatched promotion for the rest of the company, including TODAY and Nightly News, local newscasts on owned stations and affiliates, and for our Parks, including Universal Orlando Resort – the home base of the tremendous friends and family watch party that we created with the USOPC.”

Other data points included the fact that more than 120 billion minutes of Tokyo Olympics content has been consumed across all NBCUniversal platforms (television, digital and social), the equivalent of all 330 million Americans watching more than six hours each, the company reported. 

Olympic content racked up 2.9 billion impressions on NBC Olympics’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and 338.7 million public engagements on NBC Olympics’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Snap accounts.

Since the Opening Ceremony, the Twitch community has watched more than 136.6 million minutes of Olympics content, with more than 14 million unique viewers tuning in for the exclusive, interactive content, the company reported. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.