SBD/August 23, 2016/Media

NBC Wraps Up Rio With Lowest Primetime Summer Olympic Rating Since Sydney

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NBC averaged a 14.4 rating (25.4 million viewers) for 17 nights of Olympic coverage, marking the broadcast net’s lowest figure since the ’00 Sydney Games, which averaged a 13.8 rating. This year’s broadcast rating also was down 18% from the '12 London Games and down 11% from the ’08 Beijing Games. Rio also differed from ’12 in that many nights had live coverage on NBCSN or Bravo, as well as live events available digitally. NBC’s data claims the addition of this cable and digital audience to the broadcast TV audience resulted in a 7% lift. But even using NBC’s internally-created Total Audience Delivery metric, which combines all of the live primetime coverage, the audience figures would still finish over 10% behind London. NBC data shows its Total Audience Delivery average during 15 nights of competition was 27.5 million viewers. While down from recent Summer Games, NBC maintained its primetime dominance over its competitors during Rio. NBC’s primetime Rio audience also ranked higher than its 13.0 rating (22.5 million viewers) for 19 regular season NFL games last season (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

17-NIGHT SUMMER OLYMPIC RATINGS ON BROADCAST TV
YEAR
NETWORK
HOST
AVG. RATING
'16
NBC
Rio de Janeiro
14.4
'12
NBC
London
17.5
'08
NBC
Beijing
16.2
'04
NBC
Athens
15.0
'00
NBC
Sydney
13.8
'96
NBC
Atlanta
21.6
'92
NBC
Barcelona
17.1
'88
NBC
Seoul
17.0
'84
ABC
L.A.
23.2
'80
Moscow Games not televised due to U.S. boycott
'76
ABC
Montreal
23.9
'72
ABC
Munich
24.4
       

BELOW THE BAR: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports NBC's Rio audience "took an unexpected turn" from the start. The disconnect between the expectations and performance of the ratings from Rio has "led to many questions but few answers." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "We thought we’d be in that neighborhood (of London), if not up a little bit." Ourand notes NBC execs "hardly were going out on a limb with their predictions." Prior to Rio, conventional wisdom held that ratings "would skyrocket in the U.S." But NBC execs were "forced to play catch-up right out of the gate." GlideSlope President & Founding Partner Dave Mingey, whose firm advises brands like P&G, McDonald's and Citi, said, "I am baffled by the ratings." Lazarus emphasized that despite the "lower-than-expected ratings," the Rio Games "would be the most profitable Olympics NBC has produced." Media execs said that Rio’s ratings drop-off "mirrors a TV industry trend of declining viewership." But many observers "still believe in the strength of Olympic programming." Former Coca-Cola marketing exec Scott McCune said, "It’s hard to compare any media from 2012 to 2016 because viewing habits change. ... I’ve been spending maybe a third of the time on a mobile device." But former Anheuser-Busch VP/Global Media & Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo said that the declining Olympic audience "could cause some advertisers to rethink advertising plans" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/22 issue).

GOOD INTENTIONS: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Jon Lafayette wrote media buyers were "happy with the games, saying that they were getting a big audience and extra spots because NBC guaranteed viewership similar to London -- about a 17.5 rating." Wieden + Kennedy U.S. Broadcast Buying Dir Patrick Mauro said, "It’s been a wonderful Olympics. NBC is bending over backwards to accommodate their advertisers. They have been very helpful throughout." Mauro said that while it "appears that a large amount of viewing has shifted from traditional linear TV to streaming," NBC has "not been using streaming to make good on TV ratings shortfalls" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 8/22).

CONTINENTAL DRIFT: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes NBCU "heads into the next three Olympics -- all of them in Asia -- faced with a critical question: Was the lower-than-expected prime-time viewership for the just-completed Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro a fluke or a harbinger of fraying audiences over the next six years?" The answer is "unknown" for now, as no one is certain "how much further consumers will alter their media habits, how much further television viewing will be diminished, or what new technologies will emerge during that time." For Olympics held in Asia, NBC’s goal is to "have as many marquee sports as possible -- swimming, diving, track and field and gymnastics in the summer; figure skating and skiing in the winter -- taking place at times when they will be live in prime time on the East Coast." But NBC "cannot get everything it desires in scheduling despite the enormous rights fees it pays" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23). In L.A., Stephen Battaglio writes NBC execs' first job upon returning from Rio will "likely be analyzing how much streaming cannibalized the traditional TV audience." Viewers' "comfort level with watching the Games on digital devices is clearly growing at a faster pace than anticipated and likely into TV viewing," especially among adults 18-34. Olympic competition results are also "much harder to avoid in the age of social media and text alerts, making spoilers prevalent for events shown on a delay" (L.A. TIMES, 8/23).

GET WITH THE TIMES: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote the Rio Games will be "remembered as the last Casual Fan Games." People "are not going to watch hours and hours of the Olympics, exactly as NBC produces it, just because their parents did or they used to when we were kids." Kawakami: "I don’t think the IOC and NBC want to do it, though, because it means less easy money for them." NBC's decision in Rio to "tape-delay the West Coast feed three hours after the East just to lock up a larger West Coast prime-time 'casual fan' market" is "insulting and it’s remarkably short-sighted." Younger viewers and readers are "not so committed to this stale model of the Olympics" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 8/22). VARIETY's Andrew Wallenstein wrote if NBC is "going to reverse the significant ratings slide suffered in Rio," the net is going to "need to start now." NBC's double-digit drop for the Rio audience is "even more alarmingly steep among younger demographics." Perhaps it is time for NBCU to start "leveraging its considerable assets across media to make sure its athlete stars don’t entirely fade from view between Olympics" (VARIETY.com, 8/22).

RIDE THOSE COATTAILS: In L.A., Lance Pugmire notes ratings for Sunday afternoon's Premier Boxing Champions card on NBC "rode the massive coattails of NBC's coverage of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team winning the gold medal in Rio." PBC officials were "excited" by the fact that the fight "kept about 75% of the viewers." Haymon Boxing VP/Communications Tim Smith, whose firm runs PBC, said, "The viewers could have departed, but they went from an excited event in Rio to an electric event at Brooklyn" (L.A. TIMES, 8/23).
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