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Beijing Winter Olympics TV viewers sink 39% since 2018

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics collapsed (avalanched?) in TV ratings from 2018’s comparable Pyeongchang games.

Four years ago, Pyeongchang averaged 17.5 million Live + Same Day total primetime-TV viewers. (It rose to 18.2 million when counting one week of delayed viewing.) Beijing averaged 10.7 million TV viewers per night, or 39% fewer audience members from Pyeongchang on linear television alone. Including streaming, these games averaged a total audience delivery (TAD, a combination of Nielsen and Adobe data) of 11.4 million primetime viewers, which would make them down 35% from 2018.

That said, the prior Winter Olympics didn’t really have much of a streaming option. Not surprisingly, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock, recorded its best 18-day span of usage during the recently wrapped Beijing Games. NBC Sports says the Beijing Games were streamed for 4.3 billion minutes across digital properties and social media.

The Beijing Olympics, which held its closing ceremonies on Sunday, was also down in viewership from last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, which had been delayed from Summer 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like Tokyo 2020/2021, the pandemic impacted Beijing 2022, where spectators were again banned. That fact didn’t help make the competition(s) more watchable for viewers at home.

Of course, the Summer Olympics are typically higher rated than the Winter Games. The 2022 Games were the most-watched non-NFL TV show since Tokyo.

Pyeongchang and Beijing have similar time differences to U.S. soil. The South Korean city is 14 hours ahead of eastern standard time (New York) and 17 hours ahead of pacific time (Los Angeles). The China city is just one hour closer to us. Neither of those are anywhere near what one would consider ideal for the broadcasting of live events, therefore NBC mostly repackaged competitions from earlier in the day for primetime (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.). Peacock live-streamed events for diehard — or spoiler-wary — fans.

Beijing also had to navigate China’s human rights issues. The geopolitical realities overshadowed these Games for some, though on a whole the impact from that reality is likely not overwhelmingly material here.

“NBCUniversal’s presentation of the Beijing Olympics dominated across all platforms and once again showed that nothing captivates Americans for 18 consecutive days and nights like the Olympic Games,” Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement on Monday. “The power of the NBC broadcast network delivered large audiences every night, while USA Network registered the best two-week stretch of any sports and entertainment cable network. With sharply increased signups, usage and awareness, Peacock streamed every Olympic moment for the first time ever and delivered a user experience that was greatly enhanced from just six months ago. Over the course of the Games, we delivered what was promised to our advertising partners and delivered unmatched promotion for our company.”

“In the face of unprecedented challenges over the past six months, our production team showcased the thrilling competition, told the memorable stories, and provided the important global context that continue to make NBC Olympics’ presentations of the Summer and Winter Games must-see, appointment viewing,” Pete Bevacqua, the chairman of NBC Sports, added. “With dominant audiences on NBC, USA Network and Peacock, we continue to adapt and evolve across all platforms. We are excited to present the Paralympics beginning late next week, and the upcoming Olympics in exceptional host locations Paris, Milan-Cortina, and Los Angeles.” Yahoo!

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