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Olympics Ratings Rebound Following the Drop in Opening Ceremonies Viewership

Members of the U.S. men's basketball team stand in blue jerseys with the letters "USA" across the front.
Robert Gauthier | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
  • Ratings for the Tokyo Games rebounded Saturday and Sunday, following a drop in ratings for the opening ceremony.
  • The Tokyo Games averaged roughly 15.3 million total viewers for Saturday's primetime coverage, and 19.8 million for Sunday's coverage on NBC.
  • NBC said the Tokyo Olympics was streamed 735 million total minutes through Sunday, including the USA men's basketball game.

The Tokyo Olympics attracted an average of 19.8 million viewers for Sunday coverage throughout NBCUniversal platforms, the media giant said on Monday.

Events including swimming, women's gymnastics, and the triathlon help NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC, experience a 61% ratings jump from Friday through Sunday and labeled at "the largest increase ever in the first three nights of a Summer Olympics," the network said.

On Saturday, NBC said the Tokyo Games averaged roughly 15.3 million total viewers for its primetime coverage, including softball and skateboarding, a new sport that made its Olympics debut. That competition also helped with fan engagement on social media as it produced two 13-year-old winners in the women's street skateboarding event. Japan's Momiji Nishiya finished with gold, and Brazil native Rayssa Leal finished in second for a silver medal.

NBC said the Tokyo Olympics was streamed 735 million total minutes through Sunday, including the USA men's basketball game. The team's loss to France aired on streaming service Peacock. The company also added streaming metrics are up 24% when compared to the 2016 Rio Olympics, but didn't provide specific viewership stats. Events air on NBC's broadcast network and its cable channels, including NBCSN, USA Network, and CNBC.

The opening ceremony, which featured tennis star Naomi Osaka returning to the public eye to light the Olympic cauldron, attracted approximately 17 million viewers, down from 23.5 million for the 2016 ceremony. The 2012 opening ceremony for the London Games attracted 41 million viewers.

The decline in viewership around the Tokyo Games was forecasted, as Covid concerns continue throughout Japan, a 13-hour time difference isn't helping matters, and a shift in the TV landscape with more viewers cutting the cord.

NBC commanded $1.2 billion in advertisement revenue from marketers for the 2016 games and estimated it surpassed that amount, according to the New York Times. Media analysts tell CNBC the amount for a 30-second primetime ad spot for the Tokyo Olympics is roughly $1.3 million.

China leads the Tokyo Olympics with 18 total medals (six gold), followed by USA with 14 medals (seven gold). Japan is third with 13 medals, followed by Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with 12.

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