Olympic Viewership Down 42% Halfway Through Games

    • Advertisers paid $1.25 million for a 30-second primetime spot in the Tokyo Olympics.
    • NBCUniversal paid around $1.1 billion for rights to the Tokyo Games.

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Advertisers paid $1.25 million for a 30-second primetime spot in the Tokyo Olympics. It may not have been the best investment.

This year’s viewership is down 42% from the 2016 Rio Games, pushing NBC to renegotiate with advertisers to prevent future losses. Ad deals are different with every company but based on number of viewers or the “brand lift” a network can provide.

  • In 2011, NBCU’s parent company Comcast paid $4.38 billion for Olympic rights from 2014-20.
  • The deal was extended for $7.75 billion in 2014 to include the Games from 2022-32.

NBC sold a record $1.25 billion in commercial spots this year but set aside extra advertising inventory in the case there would be a drop in ratings — which now seems like the right decision.

Reports blame the low viewership on the lack of in-person spectators, top athletes dropping out, the time difference from Tokyo, and even a misunderstanding of where to find the broadcasts.

Despite the setbacks, NBCUniversal’s CEO Jeff Shell said Thursday that the company still expects a profit. 

NBC’s Peacock has 54 million sign-ups as of this week, up from 42 million in late April. So far, overall streaming minutes for the Games are up 24% from 2016.

NBC also has broadcast rights to the Beijing Olympics and Super Bowl next year.