Rio Olympics Ratings Fall Behind Barcelona 1992 In 1st Weekend Viewership


UPDATE, 2:54PM: The first weekend of the 2016 Rio Olympics is over and, with final results in, we’re now getting a cleared broadcast picture of where these Games are headed. It ain’t London, to put it mildly, but it may be online. Also, looking over the opening weekend, Rio is way behind 2012 and 2008 and even 1992 in total primetime viewers – something that ad buyers on NBC can’t be feeling Gold medal winning about.

With wins by Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky plus the always popular gymnastics with Simone Biles and Aly Raisman qualifying, NBC’s packaged 7 – 11:48 PM airing snared 29.8 million viewers. Basically the same as the fast affiliate numbers of earlier today, that viewership is still double digits down from 4-years ago and still the best the Rio Olympics has done so far.

Rio Olympics logo 2

Now, for the first time in a Summer Games, NBC wasn’t the only Comcast net showing Olympic competition last night with NBCSN and Bravo also airing the athletes in action from Brazil. Added all together, the Peacock family had 34.0 million viewers from 8 – 11 PM on Sunday. Then there’s the seemingly growing presence of streaming viewers who are watching events live rather than wait for the primetime programming.

And, with all the broadcast comparisons to London aside, that’s where we might be learning more about how the Games are actually being consumed. Through Sunday, according to NBC, the Rio Olympics have had 532 million live streaming minutes. A sign of the digital leap since 2012 both from the provider and by the consumers, that’s up 186% from 2012. In fact, again according to NBC, that’s the best ever streaming stat for any Olympics. With 12.2 million unique users, Sunday’s streaming use was up 24% from the London Games – again, a sign of the times and the shift in viewing patterns.

To jump back to broadcast, NBC has had averaged 26.7 million viewers and a 7.8 rating among the 18-49s over the first three-days of the Rio Olympics. As the chart below shows, as Summer Olympics go, that’s way down from London 2012, Atlanta 1996, Beijing 2008 and Barcelona 1992 but better than a spat of recent Games – which might be where this all ends up come August 21:

First Weekend Average Viewers For Olympic Summer Games

1. London 2012 – 36.8 Million

2. Atlanta 1996 – 34.4 Million

3. Beijing 2008 – 30.6 Million

4. Barcelona 1992 – 27.0 Million

5. Seoul 1988 – 24.4 Million (Rio 2016 – 26.7 Million)

6. Athens 2004 – 24.0 Million

7. Sydney 2000 – 23.9 Million

PREVIOUSLY, 8:45 AM: The much-hyped Michael Phelps finally was in the water last night as NBC capped off the official Day 2 of the Rio Olympics, but even the most decorated Olympian couldn’t catch up to London 2012. Still, Phelps snagging his 19th career gold medal and first in Brazil with victory for Team USA in the 4x100m freestyle relay did help the Comcast net score its best ratings results of the 2016 games so far.

With a 9.0/31 rating among adults 18-49 and 29.7 million viewers in early numbers, NBC’s 7-11 PM package coverage was up over Saturday – way up. In the key demo, NBC saw a 67% rise over August 6’s prime broadcast and a 52% jump in total viewers. Viewership-wise, the net ended up with an audience of 20.7 million once adjustments were made on Saturday’s initial results. Friday’s tape-delayed and much criticized Opening Ceremony drew 26.5 million viewers in total – again, less than last night’s Day 2 prime package.

Still, in fast affiliate numbers, the competition in Rio last night was down 21% in the key demo from the comparable primetime of four years ago in London. In total viewers, last night’s Olympics’ coverage on NBC was down 16% from what the network got for the record-breaking London coverage on July 29, 2012.

Certainly Phelps added a bounce to the less-than-stellar ratings action NBC has been seeing for its prime package this year, but he and the U.S. men’s swimmers were far from the only winner. Add to that Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and gymnastic heights — a Magnificent Seven reference — a record-breaking and gold-winning Katie Ledecky, women’s swimming and more, and it was a pretty good night for Team USA.

NBC won the night over the far-second CBS that had a 0.7/3 rating and 3.31 million viewers. An original Big Brother (1.5/5) was down a tenth from last week, while a new BrainDead (0.3/1) fell two-tenths against Olympic coverage.

ABC, Fox and The CW were all repeats on Sunday.

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