The Olympics are no longer the only game on TV. Here’s why

Written by on July 31, 2021

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Gold medalist Sunisa Lee did not assume she would ever get right here

Gymnast Sunisa Lee extends America’s gold medal streak within the all-around. Lee tells media there was a degree in her profession the place she wished “to give up.”

Sandy Hooper, USA TODAY

NBC will run away with scores gold due to the Tokyo Olympics, however its medal is tarnished by a viewership free fall from 2016 as rivals change into much less frightened of airing their huge summer season packages in opposition to the Video games.

The primetime viewers is down greater than 40% from the equal interval for the Rio Summer season Video games, reflecting an ongoing decline in conventional TV viewing spurred by cable cord-cutters and development in streaming providers.

Elements particular to those Video games have additionally damage scores: A 13-hour time distinction between Tokyo and the East Coast means a lot reside competitors happens within the wee hours within the U.S. COVID-19 has resulted in numerous unwanted effects, because the Video games had been delayed a yr; some potential viewers object to holding them throughout a pandemic; and well being restrictions have resulted in athletes performing in empty venues, dampening pleasure.

Viewing selections: What to find out about NBC’s protection of the Tokyo Olympics

On Thursday, NBC recorded its second-biggest complete primetime viewers of the Tokyo Video games, 19.5 million viewers (simply behind Sunday’s 20 million), as Sunisa Lee received the gold medal within the ladies’s all-around gymnastics competitors. U.S. teammate Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the group and all-around competitions had been the massive gymnastics information main into Thursday’s occasion.

NBC’s opponents are extra emboldened of their counterprogramming selections than in previous Video games. ABC is airing new episodes of “The Bachelorette” and CBS goes forward with outstanding actuality competitions “Huge Brother” and “Love Island.”

Streaming providers, which discover conventional head-to-head scheduling concerns irrelevant, are rolling out new seasons of Apple TV+ sports activities comedy “Ted Lasso,” nominated this month for 20 Emmy Awards, and Netflix’s “Outer Banks.”

Streaming alternatives: The right way to stream the Tokyo Olympics reside on Hulu, Peacock and different platforms

That NBC’s scores are down – 17.5 million viewers throughout broadcast, cable and streaming platforms for the primary seven nights vs. 30.5 million viewers in 2016 – is not an enormous shock contemplating virtually all programming has suffered losses, save for the NFL. By comparability, the Oscars, one other premiere TV occasion, had been down 56% this yr, attracting simply 10.four million viewers.

“It is fairly near what we had been anticipating” when it comes to viewers dimension by the primary 5 nights, says Brian Hughes, government vice chairman at advert agency Magna. “The opening ceremony was not fairly the place we thought it might be, however when it comes to the competitors, it is just about the place we had been pondering we’d find yourself.”

Though the digital viewers is far smaller than that of TV, the primary six primetime nights of competitors have been essentially the most streamed in Olympics historical past, in accordance with NBC, which has made boosting subscriptions for fledgling streaming service Peacock a high precedence.

The Olympics nonetheless dwarf every part else on TV, with Thursday’s primetime viewers greater than tripling the mixed complete of ABC, CBS and Fox.

“You have been wanting on the erosion of scores as we have had this explosion of content material. So, is the Olympic mountain as huge because it was within the media panorama? No, but it surely’s nonetheless a mountain, and a lot of the different mountains that competed with it at the moment are hills,” says Andrew Billings, a College of Alabama professor and co-author of “Olympic Tv: Broadcasting the Largest Present on Earth.”

Competing broadcast reveals have been holding up OK in contrast with their pre-Olympic numbers. CBS actuality competitions have carried out according to episodes that aired earlier than the Video games, and Monday’s “Bachelorette” dropped lower than 6% from its season common.

Friday’s episode of “Ted Lasso,” maybe impressed by the title character’s optimism, marked Apple TV+’s largest premiere day ever, the streamer says.

“When CBS determined years in the past to place authentic episodes of ‘The Huge Bang Concept’ on a Thursday night time in opposition to the (winter) Olympics, they knew they had been forcing some stage of alternative for a few of their viewers,” Billings says. “Right here, you would select ‘Ted Lasso’ when the Olympics is exhibiting some (sport) you do not care about as a lot after which come again to it. So, viewers may have their cake and eat it, too. And I believe Apple TV+ is aware of that.” 

The one-year delay within the 2020 Olympics prevented Peacock, which launched final yr, from getting an enormous opening increase, however NBCUniversal hopes this summer season’s Video games can rev up sluggish subscription numbers.

“Reside sports activities content material positively needs to be a part of streaming sooner or later, so this was a extremely great way for (NBC) to check the waters for their very own platform when it comes to how they serve up the content material, how folks desire to observe it,” Hughes says. “On (NBC’s) broadcast and cable networks, they’ve the chance to advertise (Peacock) and attempt to get extra subscribers or get present free subscribers to improve to premium.”

Wanting ahead, Billings says programmers should proceed to look past TV: “If I am NBC, I see the TV scores sport because the battle and the power to make inroads on the streaming entrance the conflict.” 

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