NBC’s ratings for this Olympics have been in free fall. Even great performances by American athletes, and the amazing performance by Usain Bolt couldn’t drag them out of the doldrums. Now admittedly, a number of the Olympic sports just don’t convert to television, and those that do have been expanded to the point of pointlessness. I mean when you have 50, 100, 200, 400 meter events in each of the swim forms freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke – not to forget the individual medley, it is not hard to see why swimmers garner so many medals. It is sort of like expanding the shot-put to use 1, 3, 5,8, 10, 20 lb balls thrown backwards, forwards, and to each side. Many Olympic athletes compete in sports where there is only one opportunity to win a medal. Some of the “bloated” sports offer 10 or more opportunities…
Which devalues the accomplishment, and audience interest.
I mean, imagine the Decathlon, where a gold medal is not only awarded for the best cumulative score in the 10 events…But for each and every one of the 10 events themselves done backwards, forwards….
It’s getting like a Montessori Kindergarten where every kid gets a ribbon for “Best Effort”.
I am not advocating dropping some of the more obscure sports – the Olympics committee does that anyway by some inscrutable formula.
NBC’s coverage is the second issue. Their incessant “Human interest” stories often pivot on some personal tragedy in the athletes life. “My dog died, so I am inspired to beat the world!” It got so bad in the 2012 Olympics, it was hard to watch at all. I mean “I’m really sorry about your dog, dude…But I really didn’t turn on the TV to watch your sob story about Rover.”
How about some useful information without the fluff? How about figuring out a way to make those lesser sports interesting?
NBC knows who to blame for poor Olympics ratings — millennials and their “Facebook or Snapchat bubbles”
Not even Usain Bolt’s race for a 8th career gold medal could salvage the network’s ratings
After the Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics have long been considered the safest bet in television, which is why NBC and its parent company, Comcast, paid $12 billion for exclusive broadcast rights to them through 2032.
The problem for NBC is that broadcast rights don’t produce the same revenue streams they once did, especially not among that most coveted 18-49-year-old demographic. As Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith noted, NBCUniversal’s CEO Steve Burke joked in June that his Olympic nightmare would be to “wake up someday and the ratings are down 20 percent.”
“If that happens,” he added, “my prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come, and they didn’t know it.” Ratings are only down 17 percent from the London Olympics, so his nightmare scenario is technically incomplete — but that’s the equivalent of claiming a dream in which your teeth are falling out while standing naked before a classroom doesn’t qualify as a “nightmare” because you’re not also being chased.
NBC foresaw this possibility, and charged up to 50 higher rates to online advertisers — but the problem isn’t necessarily the platform, as 98 percent of those watching the Olympics are doing so on traditional television.
The problem NBC faces is a general disinterest among members of the non-traditional television-watching demographic for sporting spectacles. This apathy could be because of the rise of alternative viewing options — Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu have each grown substantially in the years since the London games — or it could simply be that the nature of NBC’s coverage doesn’t resonate with the younger generation.
Every athlete is introduced according to the conventions of programming that doesn’t appeal to millennials — a “Dateline”-esque account of triumph in the inner city, for example, or a heartwarming “Hallmark Hall of Fame” tale about losing a parent at a young age. It’s difficult to capture an audience by selling it a product it’s already indicated an unwillingness to buy.
In the end, what cannot be doubted, only lamented, is that on the night Usain Bolt — widely considered to be one of the last “must-see” draws of the 2016 games — won his 8th career gold medal, NBC’s rating among those between 18 and 49 dipped to 7.0.