The Rio Olympics opened to big pageantry but relatively low ratings in the United States for NBC.
Friday’s broadcast of the Rio opening ceremony brought in an overnight rating of 16.5 — the lowest overnight rating for a summer Olympics opening ceremony since 1992 when the games were held in Barcelona.
The opening of the London games in 2012 had a 23.0 overnight rating.
The Nielsen ratings only measure American viewership at home on TV sets. The opening ceremony reached billions of people around the world.
But the weak opening for NBC is a warning sign for the network as it starts 17 days of wall-to-wall Olympics coverage.
The network may even have to compensate advertisers for lower-than-expected viewership by giving them free ads later. These are known as “makegoods” in the TV business.
One factor in the lower viewership might have been the timing of Team USA’s arrival at the stadium — usually the most-anticipated moment of the evening for American audiences.
Because of the parade of nations is held alphabetically according to the language of the host nation, “Estados Unidos” entered earlier than the “United States” team usually does.
NBC is live-streaming these games, and the numbers for that were pretty good. That was something that wasn’t measured well during the recent Republican and Democratic conventions, both of which suffered ratings-wise.
Another thing that could, or probably should, be factored into this is the number of people who cut cable out of their lives since the London Games four years ago. Yes, I know, they still receive the over-the-air channels, but many now go to sports bars out of habit to watch anything sports-related. In each busy sports bar there could be dozens or even hundreds of people watching who may have been at home doing the same thing in 2012.
All in all, this was probably more a reflection of the myriad choices offered by streaming now rather than a general malaise about the Olympics. I still love the Olympics but spent last night watching documentaries because that’s been my habit for the last few years.
NBC might have a rough time this year, but they’re probably just one good Bob Costas face anomaly away from bringing eyes that aren’t pink back to the television sets.