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All-time-low viewership for NBC’s Olympics coverage

NBCUniversal’s approach of splitting its Tokyo 2020 Olympics coverage across its linear channels and digital platforms has resulted in disastrous ratings for the broadcaster.

The Comcast-owned broadcaster announced an average audience of 15.5 million primetime viewers on its NBC channel and digital platforms Peacock and NBC Sports. This was the smallest audience for NBC since it first picked up the rights to the Olympics in 1988, and roughly half the viewing figures of the London Games in 2012.

In 2012, the broadcaster bagged an average of 31.1 million primetime viewers, dropping to 26.7 million for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

While the broadcaster can be afforded some charity due to unfavourable time differences – Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the east coast and 16 ahead of the west – NBC was lambasted by many for its confusing segmentation of content.

While European rights holder Discovery put every single event on its streaming service discovery+ and made a significant amount available live on a number of Eurosport pop-up channels, NBC’s strategy has been described as “a mess” by critics who decried a lack of 4K availability on Peacock, confusing TV guides and the shocking omission of major events like the opening ceremony (which was not broadcast live by NBC across any of its platforms).

In spite of the criticism and low figures, NBC has said that it expects to turn a profit for its coverage and praised the 6 billion minutes of content consumed by viewers across its digital and social media platforms.

In a statement, NBC Sports chair Pete Bevacqua said: “There is nothing more powerful in media than the 17 straight days of Olympics dominance. Despite being thrown a series of curveballs over the last 18 months, the power of the Olympics delivered to audiences across the various platforms of NBCU has proven itself unequaled.”

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