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How Far Will They Fall? – The Hollywood Reporter


The Tokyo Games will nearly absolutely carry NBC and its sibling cable networks their greatest primetime audiences in months. They’ll most likely additionally fall nicely in need of earlier Games.

How can each statements be true? The first is rooted within the TV historical past of the Games, and the second within the actuality of viewer habits right now. The Olympics have by no means failed to attract in giant numbers of viewers — the 4 winter and summer season Games from 2012 to 2018 averaged near 25 million viewers throughout all platforms in primetime. The previous two summer season Olympics, London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, averaged 30.3 million and 27.5 million viewers, respectively. The Winter Olympics are often a smaller draw, however 2014’s protection drew 21.3 million folks every evening; the 2018 Games got here in slightly below 20 million.

Particularly in the summertime, nothing else comes near that degree of viewers for that lengthy a stretch — 17 consecutive nights of primetime. The potential viewers for consuming all these hours of Olympics protection, or at the very least the half that Nielsen measures, has shrunk significantly prior to now few years.

In 2016, roughly 86 million U.S. properties had a cable or satellite tv for pc subscription. At the beginning of this 12 months, it was 77 million (together with on platforms like Hulu Live and YouTube TV) — a decline of 11 p.c. As a lot as something, the cord-cutting development will make it extraordinarily tough for NBCUniversal to match the earlier Nielsen numbers.

Other elements, together with considered one of NBCU’s personal making, are additionally working in opposition to the Olympics reaching earlier scores heights. NBC Sports is making live protection of a number of high-profile Olympic occasions, together with girls’s and males’s gymnastics, observe and area, and males’s basketball, unique to NBCU’s Peacock streaming service as the corporate tries to develop the platform’s subscriber base. Those occasions shall be featured in NBC’s primetime protection as nicely, however they’ll be taped packages.

The time distinction between Tokyo and the United States may additionally play a component. Tokyo is 13 hours forward of Eastern time within the U.S., and whereas some occasion finals — notably in swimming and observe — will air live throughout primetime on NBC and USA, a great deal of night protection shall be taped. Airing taped occasions hasn’t essentially harm NBC’s scores prior to now, nevertheless it’s an open query whether or not viewers’ elevated consolation with streaming, both on Peacock or on NBC’s devoted Olympics website, will eat into the TV viewers.

The excellent news for NBCU is that sports activities on TV has skilled a scores upswing in latest months, with occasions starting from Major League Baseball’s common season to the European soccer championship having fun with larger audiences. Those telecasts have additionally featured inperson followers, which most observers of televised sports activities say makes for a greater on-air product.

Under Japan’s COVID-19 protocols, no crowds shall be roaring through the Tokyo Games. But that’s at greatest a secondary concern for NBC Sports, which is combating bigger forces that may probably see its Olympic Nielsen numbers come down.

This story first appeared within the July 21 situation of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click right here to subscribe.

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