NBC’s primetime coverage of the Tokyo Olympics continued to spiral downward on Monday, averaging 14.7 million viewers for a 49% drop compared to the equivalent night from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Monday’s telecast also shed 53% of viewers from coverage of the first weeknight primetime during the 2012 London Olympics and declines were even larger among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults aged 18-49.
Variety senior TV editor Brian Steinberg wrote that the drop has spurred "advertiser anxiety" which hasn’t been eased by the news that legendary American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from team competition and fan favorite Naomi Osaka was eliminated from tennis medal competition.
Steinberg quoted a media buying executive who said the early viewership "clearly are not what NBC, our agency or our clients were looking for" from costly investment.
"This executive said early viewership trends were ‘disappointing,’" Steinberg wrote.
The opening ceremony, delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew 16.7 million viewers for NBC on Friday, the smallest audience for the network broadcast since the 1988 Seoul Games. NBC presumably hoped its multi-billion dollar investment would pick up as the Games proceeded, but primetime coverage on Saturday and Sunday also was disappointing.
NBC averaged 12.6 million viewers on Saturday night, a 39% drop compared to the first Saturday of the 2016 Olympics and a 56% drop compared to the 2012 London Games. Now that a weeknight has also shed significant viewership from recent Olympics, too, NBC could start to panic if things don’t pick up in a hurry.
"The size of the declines from the previous Rio Olympics have unnerved advertisers, who are believed to have invested more than $1.2 billion in the sports extravaganza," Steinberg wrote. "Little surprise, then, that NBCU and several media agencies have entered into discussions for ‘make goods,’ or ad inventory that is given to sponsors when a program fails to meet its original viewership guarantees."
"Fox News Primetime" host Tammy Bruce on Monday tore into the "woke" U.S. athletes who appear far more concerned about scoring political points with leftist ideologues than they do with their performance during this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"Failure, misery, resentment, victimhood, hatred for the country… that’s what fuels the left … and it’s penetrating nearly every corner of society," Bruce said in her opening monologue.
"Ask yourself… could this shift in attitude and a shift away from national pride be present in team USA's stumbling start at the Olympic Games?"
Bruce pointed to the poor performance of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who were shut out in their opener with Sweden. Team USA's men’s basketball team, headed up by "rabid America-bashing leftist Gregg Popovich," got beaten by France, marking the first time in 16 years that they've lost their opener, Bruce said.
"I contend, for some, this is the conscious and subconscious result of choosing resentment and grievance over pride and optimism … translating into an embarrassment to even be an American and to represent our nation," she told viewers.
While Bruce feels politics are to blame, others have pointed to the time difference, lack of star power, decline in American spirit, COVID protocols, streaming and other reasons why NBC’s coverage has tanked. But regardless of the cause of the collapse, Steinberg doesn’t think the advertiser anxiety is going to fade anytime soon unless something changes quickly.
"Until the Olympic telecasts gain firmer traction, however, NBCU is likely to keep hearing from sponsors," he wrote.
Fox News’ Yael Halon and Cortney O’Brien contributed to this report.