US Olympic Viewers Shift to Streaming; Japan and AUS Ratings Rise

With streaming services on the rise, the Programming Insider reported that the NBC coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is seeing its lowest ratings in years. Last week, NBC reported a 26% rise in primetime ratings and record-breaking numbers on its streaming service Peacock.

The viewers have failed to come in throughout the week. Despite taking home four medals and a World Record on Day 8, Team USA was unable to draw an audience for the final night of swimming. It was in fact the lowest rated night of programming in Olympic history.

To compare, below is a list of the night 8 views between 2000-2021:

Night 8 Total Viewers:

  • 2021 – Tokyo: 9.29 million
  • 2016 – Rio: 25.5 million
  • 2012 – London: 28.0 million
  • 2008 – Beijing: 31.6 million
  • 2004 – Athens: 22.5 million
  • 2000 – Sydney: 21.5 million

Thursday night was a more successful evening for the cable network. Audiences tuned in to watch the women 400 free and 100 fly and the men’s 100 breast and 4×100 free relay. The primetime coverage attracted 19.5 millions viewers across all platforms, but was still down 43% in ratings from the same night in 2016 Rio.

It is important to note that although people may be at home because of the pandemic, nearly 9 million homes have gotten rid of cable television since the 2016 Games, which plays a large part in the decreasing ratings. Additionally, the time difference proved to be difficult for many views. Prelims began at 4am EST and finals didn’t start until 9:30pm EST.

The Olympics have helped boost the number new users on NBC’s streaming platform. Peacock made up for some of NBC’s primetime coverage, attracting record-breaking numbers of views for the service.

Olympic Ratings Surge in Australia

(Ratings data courtesy of MediaWeek)

The Olympics came at the perfect time for Australians. In recent weeks, half of the country has re-entered a strict coronavirus lockdown, leaving the population with nothing to do but stay at home. This gave viewers the chance to sit down and watch Seven News’ extensive coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Viewers rushed to their TVs on Saturday to watch as Emma McKeon tied the record for the the most medals won by a woman at a single Olympics. Seven News ratings were up across the first week of the Tokyo Games, with the full-day broadcast audience jumping up 50% nationally from Rio in 2016.

The nation also postponed Australian Football League and National Rugby League matches on Saturday. With fewer options, the audience was more inclined to turn on the Olympics Games.

7plus was the most downloaded and watched streaming service across the Apple and Android app stores. More than 1.7 million new users registered on the app and live streamed Olympic coverage.

Japan Tunes In

Despite a poll that suggested 78% of the Japanese population opposed the Games, viewers tuned in to watch the event. The Opening Ceremony averaged its highest viewership ever at 56.4%. The Los Angeles Games in 1984 previously had the most watched opening night held outside the country, attracting 49.7% of people.

Japan currently has 31 medals from the 2020 Olympic Games, 17 of which are gold. The country earned 12 of their medals in the judo events. Yui Ohashi picked up two gold medals in swimming, bringing home the Olympic title in the women’s 200 and 400 IMs.

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2 years ago

I think you meant “Seven Network” and not “Seven News” for Australia ..

Fabulous coverage but 7app is the way to go if you want to watch events from beginning to end without too many ads or “The Voice” being shoved down your throat

Reply to  Verram
2 years ago

With Nicole on the streaming service it was a no brainer!

That jerk Mitch
2 years ago

relentless ads for prescription medication “drove people away from PRIMITIVE coverage”

2 years ago

I’m so very glad that the swimming finals were changed to mornings for NBC. Makes so much sense now.

2 years ago

Reason might just be because both the coverage and NBC streaming apps sucked. I finally had to give up on the NBC apps and go back to live TV via HULU (which I was streaming also so not an internet issue). As for the coverage, between changing camera views every 5 sec, and their inability to leave a clock on screen for more than 2 sec after winner touches, it really was annoying.

2 years ago

Like Tiger Woods is to golf and its ratings, not having Michael Phelps in the pool surely had an impact on the swimming ratings. We also have the likely side effects of Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw. THIS IS NOT A KNOCK on her for withdrawing, just a point that without her, I am sure some of the primetime ratings for gymnastics also took a hit, and since gymnastics and swimming are typically the primetime features, it is no surprise that the ratings are much, much lower.