Olympics Ratings Tank, Causing ‘Advertiser Anxiety’

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Half of the country isn’t proud of America. The other half dislikes the politicization of events like the Olympics. Couple the two, and we have a ratings disaster for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

NBC’s primetime coverage of the Tokyo Olympics continued to tank on Monday, averaging 14.7 million viewers, a 49% drop from the equivalent night from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Even more alarming, the declines were more significant in the crucial demographic of adults aged 18-49.

As a result, Variety reported that NBC’s top sponsors now have a case of “advertiser anxiety.”

One executive told the outlet that the early viewership for the event is “clearly not what NBC, our agency or our clients were looking for.”

Viewership was near historic lows the moment the 2021 Tokyo Olympics began. This year’s opening ceremony drew just 16.7 million viewers, NBC’s smallest audience since the 1988 Seoul Games.

“The size of the declines from the previous Rio Olympics have unnerved advertisers, who are believed to have invested more than $1.2 billion in the sports extravaganza,” Variety reports.

“Little surprise, then, that NBCU and several media agencies have entered into discussions for ‘make goods,’ or ad inventory that is given to sponsors when a program fails to meet its original viewership guarantees.”

Moving forward, there’s little reason for optimism. Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team and individual all-around competitions — traditional fan favorites — because of mental health concerns. Biles’ next step is unclear.

These viewership declines are more complex than declines in other TV programming. First, certain problems have plagued all of TV: cord-cutting, Netflix, social media, YouTube clips, and decreasing attention spans.

On top of that, there’s the political divide, which is now front and center at a world event. Anything that represents America is now controversial. The U.S. flag triggers the Left, while the social stances of some athletes turn off the Right. Thus, almost everyone has lost interest in the Games. American viewers don’t care if their team wins or loses anymore. So fewer and fewer of them are watching.

The Olympics don’t mean what they used to. And as a TV property, its value is shrinking.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.


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  1. What they don’t understand is that a great many of the people aren’t going to come back.

    Im not going to start suddenly pulling for the women’s soccer team or the men’s basketball team 4 or 8 years from now. They’re dead to me.

  2. In the past I have been sad when the olympics end as I have to wait 4 years for it to return but this year, I’ve tried to watch but the coverage is just horrible. Any given hour is 30 minutes of ads, 25 minutes of Mike talking — and I like Mike but sheesh — and maybe 5 minutes of sports. It is quite literally unwatchable.

    • Exactly. This is the problem sports in general but in particular the Olympics. The media talking heads are demanding more time and it really sucks. I loved watching the swimming trials because I knew swimming would be on them I could flip when they went to the personal profile segment that I really don’t give two shits about. The olympics is just tons and tons of these stories. Dial it back to one or two per night but no…… these woke media companies are too stupid.

  3. Let’s go TEAM USA… Real America is rooting for you. It’s not like the haters have a group of athletes ready to take over and represent America even though i would love to see an ALL MAGA 4 x 100 relay team. Im sure we would be the fastest in the world? LMBAO…that was funny when i wrote it… Meritocracies in sports separate the MEN from the boys. BBC > LWC

  4. I haven’t watched any of it. I’ve never really been interested in olympic basketball or soccer anyhow, so the players on those teams being garbage doesn’t affect any potential enjoyment. I haven’t bothered to make time for the NFL for three or four years now, the NBA for a decade, or not even MLB (which was the hardest to give up in 2020).

    I have always loved watching swimming, track and field, and all those weird Olympic sports that Americans aren’t traditionally any good in. But, I guess between the last Olympics and this one, my viewing habits have changed enough that I don’t feel compelled to do so. I hope I still like curling come the next Olympics, but I’m no fan of Chinese propaganda and the Olympics do air on NBC, so who knows how much of the next Winter Olympics I’ll bother watching in 2022.

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