Beijing Olympic Ratings Were the Worst of Any Winter Games

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A median of 11.4 million viewers watched the Beijing Olympics on NBCUniversal platforms every evening — the smallest prime-time viewers on file for any Winter Video games and effectively off the 19.8 million nightly viewers for the Pyeongchang Video games in 2018.

Greater than two weeks of protection, beginning with the frigid opening show on Feb. 4 and ending Sunday, drew 160 million whole viewers throughout the NBC tv channel, the Peacock streaming service and different platforms, NBCUniversal stated on Monday.

Dramatic story strains proliferated throughout NBCUniversal’s 2,800 hours of protection, however few catered to an viewers which will have craved escapist forays and tales of triumph. Pandemic restrictions pressured the competitions to take place in a bubble. The end result: principally empty stands, and NBC announcers corresponding to Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski having to ship their dispatches from a compound in Connecticut.

A number of of probably the most memorable episodes lacked the uplifting, inspirational qualities that make for blockbuster Olympic broadcasts. Mikaela Shiffrin, an American skier who had gained three Olympic medals earlier than arriving in Beijing, stumbled disastrously in a number of occasions and went dwelling empty-handed. Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian determine skating star, fell apart throughout her free skate whereas weathering a doping scandal. When she stepped off the ice, her coach berated her on digital camera.

Geopolitical tensions additionally dogged the Olympics. China tried to wash the Video games of political overtones using bots and fake accounts. And concern concerning the welfare of the Chinese language tennis participant Peng Shuai, who final yr accused a political official of sexual abuse, threatened to overshadow the Video games.

“The Olympics model is admittedly struggling. Lots of people don’t really feel that emotional connection anymore,” stated Tang Tang, a media professor at Kent State College who has studied the Olympics.

The Beijing Olympics lacked the sort of powerhouse narrative that turned the American swimmer Michael Phelps and his eight gold medals into must-watch TV in 2008. One of many breakout stars of this yr’s Video games, the Chinese American skier Eileen Gu, competed for China quite than the USA. And gamers within the National Hockey League didn’t take part.

“Audiences watch the Olympics for the tales. They want that superhero story, that star high quality,” Professor Tang stated. “They don’t actually see the Olympics as a real sporting occasion, however quite as one thing extra private.”

In 2014, NBCUniversal purchased the American rights to air the Olympics by 2032 for $7.75 billion. However the Beijing Video games, and people in Tokyo six months earlier, had been logistically difficult. The Tokyo Olympics drew the smallest audience since NBCUniversal started masking the Summer season Video games in 1988.

In Beijing, NBCUniversal grappled with a 13-hour time distinction from New York, which meant that social media and information stories often delivered Olympic outcomes lengthy earlier than viewers watched a broadcast. The corporate stated that this yr’s Olympics had been its most streamed Winter Video games ever, with 4.3 billion minutes streamed throughout digital and social media.

Effectively earlier than this month, NBCUniversal had informed advertisers to count on decrease scores for the Beijing Video games in contrast with the Pyeongchang occasion. The corporate stated on Monday that its protection in Beijing had topped the whole lot in prime-time tv apart from the N.F.L.

The largest evening for this yr’s Video games was Feb. 13, when 24 million folks tuned in, a lot of them most likely coming from NBCUniversal’s Super Bowl broadcast. The soccer sport drew 112 million viewers, or 70 p.c of the overall viewers who watched the Olympics over greater than two weeks.

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