Exhibiting nothing less than the speed, precision and showmanship we’ve come to expect from Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man grasped more history Thursday at the Rio Olympics with a third consecutive gold medal in the men’s 200 meters. However, for NBC’s packaged primetime coverage as the end of the 2016 Games nears, that win was very close to a ratings loss.
With a 5.7/21 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic and 20.50 million viewers in fast affiliate results, last night’s Olympics on the Comcast-owned net marked the second-lowest ratings results of the Rio Games. Only Saturday, August 6 — Day 1 of official competition — has done worse in the key demo and total audience. We could see an adjustment later today, but if it stays within the rise of a tenth that has been common these Games, that silver-medal low will stand.
It is common at this point in almost any Olympics to see a loss of ratings momentum, but the drop for 2016 has been double-digits. Week-to-week, the second Thursday of the Games is down 37% in the demo and 35% in total viewers from the first Thursday of Rio on August 12 which featured women’s gymnastics and the dropping of the new Rogue One trailer. That demo number went up a tenth in the final results.
Compared to the second Thursday of London 2012, which was down significantly from the first Thursday of those Games, the viewership decline is a bit kinder with an 8% dip — but the 18-49 fall is 16% in the early numbers. Despite all the talk of live-streaming successes and coverage across cable channels, NBC had to be hoping to see those primetime broadcast numbers turn around or at least rebound heading into this final weekend.
While ABC and Fox were encores last night, preemptions for preseason NFL games were all over affiliates on other networks nationwide. Still, Big Brother (1.9/7), CBS’ sole original on Thursday, is up a tenth right now from August 12; that rating went down a tenth when the NFL preemptions were factored in. The CW’s limited docu-series The Last Days (0.2/1) was unchanged from its August 17 debut.