2020 Tokyo Olympics: Ratings Continue to Plummet After Wednesday Coverage

by Anna Dunn

While plenty of athletes have performed incredibly, things aren’t looking good for the ratings of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The primetime coverage of yesterday’s Olympics reached 11.7 million total viewers. That’s down a painful 15% from the previous nights.

On top of this, ratings for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics haven’t been good to begin with. The first sign of trouble came with the opening ceremony. The ceremony was down an abysmal 53% in viewers this year in comparison to the 2016 opening ceremony. This was a 33-year low for the games.

Opening weekend for the games also looked bleak. Primetime coverage averaged 15.8 million viewers from Friday-Sunday. The Rio Olympics averaged 27.27 million viewers during its opening weekend. Many nights since have been almost half the number that the Rio games brought in.

This drop in ratings was expected for two reasons. First, general TV ratings have dropped over recent years as more and more people opt out of their cable plans. Second, COVID-19 has changed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics fundamentally. First, of course, we’re having the games in 2021. Now, a new outbreak has made it so no spectators can take to the stands.

But even when streaming is factored into the equation, NBC’s numbers still hurt a lot. Even when streaming is included the total ratings drop from the 2016 Olympics is at a concerning 36%.

Ad Buyers Extremely Unhappy about 2020 Tokyo Olympics Viewership

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was supposed to be a major cash-in for ad buyers, but the abysmal ratings have NBC Universal feeling the pressure. In total, advertisers paid 1.2 billion to have their products pushed during the games, but these games are bringing in a historically low amount of prospective buyers.

Now, several advertisers are communicating with NBC about “make goods.” Make goods are ad inventory that networks give to advertisers when Broadcasters fall short of their viewership guarantees. But NBCU reportedly feels confident that they have the make goods to give advertisers the views they paid to receive.

NBCU also hopes that advertisers will realize that The Olympics aren’t over yet, and there’s still plenty of time for the ratings to change.

Olympic Athletes, Meanwhile, Are Battling the Heat

NBCU is scrambling to make sure advertisers get what they paid for, but athletes are facing a much more literal kind of heat. The temperatures in Tokyo have been absolutely scorching this year, adding a new obstacle for outdoor competitors to overcome.

One Tennis player, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, had to leave during a match to try and cool down.

“I changed everything I had,” Medvedev said to reporters. “I wanted to change my skin because I was sweating like I never did before. It was terrible.” Sadly, Medvedev lost his match.

But all these downsides, from the poor ratings to the terrible heat aren’t taking too much away from the incredible athleticism fans are seeing this year from the Olympic athletes. And while things may be a bit different this year, the Games are definitely still worth a watch. You can watch on NBC, on NBC’s streaming service Peacock, the NBC Sports app, or nbcolympics.com.