Ashley Landis / AP
If there were medals for viewership, the year’s Olympics wouldn’t get anywhere near the podium.
Figures released Monday show NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage in China drew the smallest audience in its history, dropping more than 40 percent since the last winter Games.
The reports indicate there was an average total audience of 11.4 million viewers for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. That is a sharp decline from the 19.8 million average for the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which at the time was the least-watched Olympics in history, having dropped 1.5 million viewers from the Sochi Olympics.
“This was probably the most difficult Olympics of all time,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua told The Wall Street Journal.
Several factors contributed to the audience’s waning interest, he explained. They included the lack of crowds due to the pandemic and “very harsh protocols in China” that kept family and friends out of the stands and limited the size of the network’s coverage teams in Beijing.
“We had 1,600 people in Stamford and 600 people in Beijing,” Bevacqua said, referring to the size of the network’s crew in Connecticut. “Normally that would be flipped for us,” he added.
This year’s lackluster numbers are also likely due to the significant time difference between the US and China, controversies regarding the host country’s human rights record, as well as a general lower level of interest in the winter sports that make up the international competitions.
NBC is forking over approximately $ 1.3 billion every two years through 2032 to broadcast the summer and winter Olympics in the US It is unclear whether the network turned a profit this time or lost money on the Beijing games.
But Bevacqua said advertisers were given additional commercial time to make up for the absence of eyeballs.
“They were made whole throughout the entire Olympics,” he said.
Still, the executive touted the company’s success on online platforms, noting the Beijing events were the most streamed winter games ever. People tuned in to watch 4.3 billion minutes of the various events across the network’s digital and social media channels over 18 days. Only last year’s summer games in Tokyo performed better with 5.6 billion minutes of viewing time on the same outlets, The Hollywood Reporter stated.