The fool’s gold medal for the least-watched Winter Olympics goes to NBC.
The Winter Games in Beijing, which ended with the closing ceremonies Sunday night, averaged 12.2 million viewers per night combining both streaming and on-air viewers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
That was down 42 percent from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Only about 10 million viewers watched the Beijing Games on-air, which was down a 47-percent drop from 2018, according to Fox News.
Although NBC touted the 516,000 fans who watched via its streaming service, Peacock, as an increase over 2018, it still lagged the Pyeongchang viewership by almost 7 million viewers per night overall.
The Winter Games also saw a 26 percent drop in viewership from last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo, which averaged about 15.5 million viewers.
“The Olympics brand is really struggling. A lot of people don’t feel that emotional connection anymore,” said Tang Tang, a media professor at Kent State University who has studied the Olympics, according to The New York Times.
“Audiences watch the Olympics for the stories. They need that superhero story, that star quality,” Tang said. “They don’t really see the Olympics as a true sporting event, but rather as something more personal.”
Others noted that holding the games in China was a turn-off for many potential viewers.
“The media for the most part is still skittish when it comes to talking about Beijing’s acts in Xinjiang and other places,” author Gordon Chang said, according to Fox News.
“It’s not alleged human rights violations,” he said. “They are atrocities. There’s genocide, as determined by both the Trump and Biden administrations. They’re crimes against humanity, and the coverage, and this is not just the U.S media, it’s around the world that you see there is an unwillingness to call it out for what it actually is.”
Chang said he was among those who refused to watch the games in protest.
The Times said the lackluster showing — by Olympic standards — was expected. “Well before this month, NBC Universal had told advertisers to expect lower ratings for the Beijing Games,” it said.
The report noted that in terms of scale, 112 million people watched the Super Bowl, which amounted on one night to about 70 percent of the total viewership of the Olympics over the entire length of the Beijing Games.
Some said NBC ought to be hurting from the results.
“Given the investment, they’ve got to be disappointed right now,” Andrew Billings, director of the sports communications program at the University of Alabama, according to The Associated Press.
But NBC issued a news release on Monday that was packed with cheer.
“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, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement.
“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,” Lazurus said. “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.”