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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.