US ratings for Tokyo Olympics slide to half of London games

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US viewership for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a competition clouded by the COVID-19 pandemic, dropped to about half the audience for the London games in 2012, according to data released by Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal on Monday.

The 17-day event attracted an average of 15.5 million primetime viewers on the NBC broadcast network and on digital platforms including the new Peacock streaming service, the company said in a statement.

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That compared to 31.1 million viewers who watched the Summer Olympics in London via TV and online outlets, and 26.7 million who tuned in for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, an NBC spokesman said.

Comparisons with previous Olympic Games are imperfect given the different times zones, the COVID pandemic and fewer streaming options in past games. Viewers streamed nearly 6 billion minutes of Tokyo Olympics programming, a record for an Olympics, across NBC’s digital and social media platforms, the company said.

NBCUniversal aired the Games across two broadcast networks, six cable networks, and multiple digital platforms including its Peacock streaming service. That left some viewers confused and struggling to find the events they wanted to watch.

Some high-profile athletes were absent from major events. US superstar gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of five of her six events, citing concerns for her mental and physical health, and American sprinter Sha’Karri Richardson was disqualified after testing positive for marijuana.

The TV ratings drop reflects a trend among live events, including Hollywood awards shows and sports championships.

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