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There Are Fewer People Watching the Olympics This Year

Olympic viewership is down this year. Is there a reason for this? You might be surprised to find out how much NBC pays for the rights to air the games.


Are you watching the Olympics?  Are you watching TV at all these days?  I used to love watching the winter Olympics when I was a kid.  I mean, I was glued to the TV for the entire two weeks that it was on.  There wasn’t much to do otherwise, as it was winter.  It would get dark so early in the evening, it’s not like I could go outside.  But somewhere along the way, I lost my love for the Olympics.  Maybe everyone likes them as a kid, and then you stop for some reason?

Viewership for this year’s games has declined.  What do you think the reason is?  NBC paid $963 million in order to have the rights to air the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.  This is an increase of 24% since the last winter games in Sochi, Russia.  That said, NBC has already made about $900 million back in ad sales.  If previous years’ trends continue, these games might see fewer viewers.  For the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, NBC paid $1.2 billion, or 4 percent more than the previous summer games in London, but average U.S. prime-time competition viewership declined more than 9 percent. The Rio games were the first that NBC also streamed online simultaneously, and those viewers are included in the overall viewership count.

What’s crazy about this is that NBC actually “owns” the Olympics all the way through 2032, which was part of a $7.65 billion agreement that gives the network the rights to air six games, or on average, $1.27 billion each.  But does this speak to a larger viewership trend that is in decline?  I know that my schedule doesn’t exactly give me the opportunity to watch live TV.  I’ve come to terms with that.  Hopefully, the industry will one day as well.  But even Super Bowl viewership was down this year.  In fact, it was down 7% from last year.  That’s huge.  Out of a hundred million viewers, the Super Bowl brought in 7 million less.  Almost the entire city of New York didn’t watch the game (statistically speaking).  That’s incredible.


Are these people like me?  Or is there another reason for it?  I’m sure there are some people who are in my boat.  Cable cutters who find their schedules fairly packed and can barely catch up on the weekly shows that we watch – let alone live sports.  But I wonder if what’s been happening with the NFL has anything to do with it as well?

I’m not going to get into that in this post, because I’m talking about the Olympics, but that could be the reason.  Sure, the games are in South Korea, but if you’re politically in-tune in the least, you know that North Korea is participating in the games – even if it’s just to attend.  And while I’m not trying to make this a political thing, but it always is. It’s also not an “us vs. them” mentality.  It’s simply stating that things are going on politically, that seem to be affecting other parts of our lives.  And in this case, I think it is having an impact on what we are watching on TV.  Why would I watch about an actual dystopia, when I can watch about a “fake” one on the Handmaid’s Tale?

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