2020 Tokyo Olympics Ratings Down Significantly from 2016 in Opening Weekend

by Anna Dunn

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are officially underway after being postponed due to COVID-19, but the ratings aren’t where they were in 2016 in the slightest. It’s another unfortunate blow to an Olympic games marred with controversy and poor luck.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Tokyo Olympics aren’t doing relatively well in the ratings. They’re still outperforming everything else on TV by impossible-to-beat margins.

Primetime coverage of the Tokyo Olympics averaged at around 15.8 million viewers from Friday-Sunday. But the Summer Olympics in 2016 drew in almost twice that at 27.27 million viewers on average for its first three nights.

The Drop in Views Was Expected

The drop in ratings has been long expected for multiple reasons. First, people are increasingly getting rid of their cable plans in favor of streaming. Second, COVID-19 still haunts these games. Due to a surge of the virus in Japan, spectators are not allowed in the Olympic venues, making it a fan-free games.

The viewership for the opening ceremony was down 53% from the last summer games. 26 million people tuned into NBC to watch the opening ceremonies in Rio, but only 12 million people tuned in to the opening ceremonies this year.

However, there is a silver lining. With the fall in cable viewers comes a rise in digital and streaming viewers. NBC sports digital is experiencing its best year yet with an average of 648,000 viewers tuning in during primetime on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, and the NBC Sports app.  Audiences streamed 735 million minutes of Tokyo Olympics-based content across NBC’s digital platforms. That’s up 24% from 2016.

Competitors to Watch

Unfortunately, the ratings are down when there are countless incredibly talented competitors out there. Here are just a few:

Currently, one of the many athletes to watch is tennis superstar Naomi Osaka. Osaka is Japanese-born and American-raised, making the Olympic Games in Tokyo particularly special for her. The 23-year-old has already beaten two of her competitors and is sure to engage in more fierce competition as the days go on.

Another competitor to keep an eye on is swimmer Katie Ledecky, who Michael Phelps has nothing but praise for.

“I had the privilege to train with her at the last training camp, in 2016. I’m very happy that she didn’t do the exact set with us that day because she would’ve destroyed me,” he admitted in a recent interview. Ledecky has won multiple Olympic medals and is likely going to win more.

And of course, there is the absolutely legendary Simone Biles. The gymnast is once again going for the gold. The medalist became an international sensation after her performance in 2016, which blew her competitors out of the water.

How to Watch The Tokyo Olympics

Just because there isn’t an audience present at the stadium, that doesn’t mean there can’t be an audience at home. You don’t even have to have cable. NBC is also offering Olympic coverage on the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com. No matter the time of day, you’re sure to find either re-caps or some of the games live.