Only 16.7 million US viewers were drawn to the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, the lowest television audience recorded in the last 33 years.
This was disclosed by the preliminary data from Comsat owned NBC Universal on Saturday.
The views were captured across all platforms, including NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, according to NBC Universal.
According to Reuters, the streaming audience on those platforms grew 76% from the 2018 PyeongChang opening ceremony and 72% from the 2016 Rio opener, reflecting a change in viewing habits.
It stated, “Friday’s audience reflects a steep drop, despite difficult comparisons with previous opening ceremonies when viewers had fewer streaming options.
The Tokyo opener TV audience declined 37% from 2016 when 26.5 million people watched the Rio de Janeiro Games opener, and 59% from 2012, when 40.7 million people watched the London ceremony.”
What this means
The 2021 edition had the lowest audience for the opening ceremony since the 1988 Seoul Games, which attracted 22.7 million TV viewers. It was also lower than the 1992 Barcelona Games, when 21.6 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen data.
However, the Rio, London, Barcelona and Seoul numbers reflect final rating data not yet available for the Tokyo Games opener.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Friday’s scaled-down opening event took place with fewer than 1,000 physical viewers at the Olympic Stadium under strict social distancing rules.
Major absences included former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had wooed the games to Tokyo, and top sponsors, as the event faced strong opposition in COVID-fatigued Japan.
With Tokyo 13 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, NBC for the first time broadcast the ceremony live in the morning, at 6:55 a.m. ET on Friday.
What you should know
NBCUniversal has aggressively pushed its digital platforms this year and views the Olympics as a vital driver of subscribers for its Peacock streaming service.
The company plans to air an ”unprecedented” 7,000 hours of Olympics coverage across its multiple television networks and Peacock. This includes some of the most anticipated events such as gymnastics and U.S. Men’s basketball, on the streaming platform. It will also stream over 5,500 hours of the Olympics on NBCOlympics.com and its sports app.
Not all athletes were present at the teams’ parade during the opening ceremony, due to rules that require many to fly in just before their competitions and leave shortly after to limit social contact.
The TV rating drop is part of a trend among live TV events, including awards shows and sports.