The Tokyo Games went on. But American viewers aren’t coming along.
Jul 31, 2021 1 min, 18 secs
Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, a group of NBC executives held a news conference to talk about their approach to these unusual Games.

The message was hope, as it is for every Olympics, but NBC also wanted these Games to mark the symbolic end of the global pandemic — a return to everyday life and a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit after a difficult 18 months.

According to Nielsen, the opening ceremony in Tokyo drew 16.7 million viewers on NBC on July 23, accounting for both the live morning broadcast and the replay in prime time — the smallest audience for an opening ceremony in the past 33 years.

Through the first four nights of the Games, according to Sportico, viewership of NBCUniversal’s Olympics coverage, across its networks, is down 43 percent compared with Rio de Janeiro, to 17.5 million viewers from 30.7 million.

The positive news, Shell said on the call, is that Peacock has delivered its largest audiences in its short life span during the Olympics.

Additionally, NBC says the first five nights of the Games delivered five of the top 17 prime time audiences of the year on linear TV.

Shell said the Games will still be profitable for NBC due in part to Peacock, though he did not cite exact figures.

The Rio Games made NBCUniversal $250 million, the company has said.

Nearly 10 percent of poll respondents said they had not heard about the Games taking place in Tokyo this month.

Find the latest news and updates from the Tokyo Olympics here, and join us as we track the Olympic medal count, sport by sport

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