Will the Tokyo Olympics Lose the Ratings Race?

(Image credit: IOC)

NEW YORK—As the Tokyo Olympics prepare to get underway on July 23rd, a new consumer survey from Zeta Global finds low consumer interest in watching the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and that viewing is shifting towards streaming. 

Based on responses from over 2000 respondents across the United States, the survey found that enthusiasm for the Tokyo Olympics is low. 

The majority of U.S. consumers are not looking forward to the Olympics this year: 45.2% of U.S. consumers surveyed are not looking forward to the Olympics, while 17.5% are undecided, Zeta reported. 

That lack of interest, has prompted Zeta to predict that the Tokyo Olympics will be "one of the lowest-watched Summer Olympic Games in the 21st century, to date."

It argues that as the U.S. economy re-opens and people begin to travel more this summer, people are not prioritizing the Olympics and may be nervous about watching it in crowded locations as they travel. 

Respondents of the survey noted that 52.7% of people surveyed said they would not watch the Olympics with people they don’t live with, and only 19.4% will watch the Olympic Games in a location outside of their home.

Women and Generation Z viewers are, however, more interested in watching the Olympics than other demographics. Generation Z and younger Millennials (adults 18-34) had the highest proportion of interest watching the Olympics, with 48% of surveyed women were interested in watching the Olympics, versus only 41% men. 

Female Olympians are also heavy fan favorites. Only three male athletes made the survey’s top ten list of Olympic athletes, which included: 1. Simone Biles, 2. Katie Ledecky, 3. Naomi Osaka, 4. Kevin Durant, 5. Allyson Felix, 6. Megan Rapinoe, 7. Alex Morgan, 8. Julie Ertz, 9. Devin Booker, 10. Caeleb Dressel.

The survey also found that women’s gymnastics is the #1 favorited Olympic sport, with nearly one third (32.7%) reporting women’s gymnastics as their favorite sport. Others include volleyball, swimming, track and basketball.

Among adults 18 to 34, 28% were most interested in basketball.

Among political interest groups, Republicans are much more interested in women’s gymnastics, while Democrats favor swimming and men’s basketball as a favorite event.

The survey also found that while Cable TV (NBC) is still the preference for those watching live Olympic events, mobile and connected TV viewership is rising. 

The gap between watching the Olympics on traditional Cable TV (33.2%) versus Mobile (28%) is closing; while Tablet/Laptop (19.5%) and Connected TV viewers (19.3%) are similar, signifying the rise in CTV over the past year.

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.