2020 Tokyo Olympics: Potential Causes Behind Slipping TV Ratings

by Clayton Edwards
SLUG 2020-tokyo-olympics-potential-causes-behind-slipping-tv-ratings

The Tokyo Olympics are well underway. Athletes from all around the globe are there competing for gold and the prestige that goes along with it. Sports fans won’t find a larger display of athletic prowess than the Olympic Games. So, millions of them tune in to watch the international action unfold every year. As a result, Olympic coverage has always had huge ratings. However, this year is a little different.

Summer Olympic games are always a big draw. So, the Tokyo Olympics will definitely bring NBC a ratings hike over the next two weeks. However, it is unlikely that they will garner the kind of viewership that other summer games have. For instance, the 2016 Olympics from Rio averaged over 27 million viewers. In 2012, the London Olympics averaged over 30 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

With huge numbers like that in recent years, some might wonder why the Tokyo Olympics would get lower ratings. There are several reasons for the possible slip in ratings.

What Could Cause Lower Ratings for the Tokyo Olympics?

One thing that is working against NBC and the Tokyo Olympics is the simple fact that times have changed in the past four years. It seems that technology has grown by leaps and bounds since 2016. At the same time, more and more households cancel their cable subscriptions every year. To them, there are plenty of streaming options to replace cable TV. In fact, with a live TV package add-on, Hulu is almost the same as having cable. Additionally, YouTube offers a live TV service. So, the shift from cable to streaming will take a large bite out of the overall audience.

However, one streaming service poses a whole new threat to NBC’s ratings. Their own Peacock service will doubtlessly put a dent in TV viewership. Though, it seems like that was by design. NBC placed their live coverage of many popular events exclusively on their streaming service. Live coverage of men’s and women’s gymnastics, as well as track and field, will be exclusive to Peacock. Additionally, if viewers want to see the men’s basketball team compete at the Tokyo Olympics, they’ll have to get the streaming service.

That coverage will also air on NBC. However, it will be pre-recorded. In fact, many of the events from the Tokyo Olympics have to be pre-recorded. This is due to the fact that there is a 13 hour time difference between the United States and Tokyo.

The Hollywood Reporter noted that there is another smaller issue that may cause lower ratings. Japan’s COVID protocols prohibit large gatherings. So, there will be no roaring crowds. This led to lower ratings for televised sports during the pandemic. The lack of crowds is a small concern. However, it does add one more stone to the scale that is already tilted against NBC’s ratings for the Tokyo Olympics.