Tokyo Olympics Viewership Declined 42% From Rio

The Wrap


The Tokyo Olympics came one year late, but at least they happened. And they just so happened to be watched by 42% fewer viewers than the Rio games in 2016, according to total audience delivery (TAD) tallies.

The all-in number of 15.5 million average viewers across the Tokyo games includes NBC, its cable channels and digital properties — including Peacock. That’s down from the TAD of 26.7 million that Rio boasted.

We should note that the final Nielsen numbers for NBC’s primetime coverage of the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday and the Closing Ceremony on Sunday will be in Tuesday, meaning the TAD currently stands at 15.1 million, but is projected to reach the above-mentioned 15.5 million.

Earning gold, silver and bronze, respectively, were the first Sunday of competition (20 million viewers), the first Thursday (19.5 million) and the second Tuesday (17.4 million).

On the No. 1 night, NBC aired the women’s gymnastics team’s — including Simons Biles — qualifying round during that Sunday primetime broadcast. Additionally, American swimmer Caeleb Dressel took gold in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay that evening and Katie Ledecky won silver in the women’s 400m freestyle.

During the first Thursday of competition, American Suni Lee (pictured above) scored gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around and more medals went to U.S. swimmers. And on that second Tuesday, Biles’ won bronze in the balance beam — her only solo performance in Tokyo. That evening also included the women’s 400 meter hurdles final featuring Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad and a new world record.

But the eyeballs were mainly there for Biles on Tuesday, who competed for the first time since she withdrew from the gymnastics women’s team all-around final a week earlier due to a mental block gymnasts call “the twisties.”

See Tokyo’s per-night averages below. With them, we have the comps for Rio 2016.

With the time zone differences, lack of in-person fans and generally downward ratings trends across all of television, no one expected Tokyo to hold up with Rio.

Opening ceremony (Friday): 17.3 million (Tokyo) vs. 26.5 million (Rio)
Day 1 (Saturday): 15.9 million (Tokyo) vs. 23.5 million (Rio)
Day 2 (Sunday): 20.0 million (Tokyo) vs. 31.8 million (Rio)
Day 3 (Monday): 16.8 million (Tokyo) vs. 31.5 million (Rio)
Day 4 (Tuesday): 16.2 million (Tokyo) vs. 36.1 million (Rio)
Day 5 (Wednesday): 15 million (Tokyo) vs. 28.6 million (Rio)
Day 6 (Thursday): 19.5 million (Tokyo) vs. 33 million (Rio)
Day 7 (Friday): 15.5 million (Tokyo) vs. 26 million (Rio)
Day 8 (Saturday): 14.9 million (Tokyo) vs. 26.8 million (Rio)
Day 9 (Sunday): 16.0 million (Tokyo) vs. 28.1 million (Rio)
Day 10 (Monday): 15.8 million (Tokyo) vs. 25.5 million (Rio)
Day 11 (Tuesday): 17.4 million (Tokyo) vs. 25.6 million (Rio)
Day 12 (Wednesday): 14.6 million (Tokyo) vs. 22.1 million (Rio)
Day 13 (Thursday): 13.3 million (Tokyo) vs. 22.9 million (Rio)
Day 14 (Friday): 12.6 million (Tokyo) vs. 21.1 million (Rio)As we said before, numbers for Saturday and the Closing Ceremony on Sunday will be in Tuesday.

More to come…

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