Just over 24 hours after the 17 days of the pandemic-delayed Games of the XXXII Olympiad wrapped up, the network is trying to put a golden spin on losing results. Insisting that its small screen dominance and streaming data during the past two weeks were a winner, NBC also has revealed that it averaged 15.5 million primetime viewers since the lackluster Opening Ceremony on July 23.
Now, in today’s era of declining viewership, and looking at 2021 so far, 15.5 million sounds pretty impressive.
Until you look at past Olympics and realize that the Tokyo Games faceplanted to the worst result NBC has had since it started broadcasting the Summer Olympics in 1988 from Seoul, South Korea.
Focusing in on the most recent Summer Olympics, the curated primetime coverage of the Tokyo Game crashed 42% from Rio 2016, which was held from August 5-21 that year. Held a year later than planned, the Tokyo Olympics were also down 22% from the last Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.- which is a real kick on the podium.
Plagued with Covid controversary, fears and previously unimagined restrictions, the Tokyo Olympics saw America top the medal count with 113 overall and 39 golds to second-place China’s 88 and 38, respectively. However, lacking spectators in stadiums and other venues, the mainly masked participants from 205 delegations and the Refugee Olympic team found themselves competing in the 2020 Olympics in 2021, with the Beijing Winter games hot on their heels with its February 4 start.
Still, having to mollify advertisers because the viewership often failed to meet expectations, NBC soldiered onward on all its platforms and outlets to Sunday’s Closing Ceremony.
Held much earlier in the day live in the Japanese megacity’s near-empty National Stadium, the pre-taped and sculpted primetime spectacle hosted by Johnny Weir, Terry Gannon and Tara Lipinski was perhaps most noticeable for its handover to the Paris 2024 games.
Well, that and the terrible viewership it received.
Looking at early numbers, the Tokyo Olympics Closing Ceremony snagged a mere 8.8 million viewers for NBC. Those fast affiliate results will surely see some change when the final numbers are in Tuesday, but right now the end of the 2020 Olympics looks to be the least-watched Closing Ceremony ever.
Compared to the official end of the PyeongChang Winter Games in 2018, Sunday night’s 8-10:30 PM event slid by 40% in viewership. More apples to summer apples, the Closing Ceremony of the postponed Tokyo Olympics crashed 48% from the dancefest that was the conclusion of Rio 2016.
NBC can say that they won Sunday night against CBS’ Big Brother and Love Island, animation encores on Fox and Major League Baseball on ABC, but really, that’s not a lot to write home about — from Tokyo or otherwise.
We will update with more Closing Ceremony numbers when we get them. See you on the slopes in Beijing next year and in the City of Lights in 2024.