The downward trend for NBC’s Olympics ratings continued during the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
The Winter Olympics attracted an average of 11.4 million primetime viewers across all platforms during the two-and-a-half week-long Games, NBCUniversal announced Tuesday. That figure makes the Games the lowest-rated in the history of NBC’s time broadcasting the event.
The 11.4 million viewers is a 42% drop from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which at the time posted extremely low ratings. About 10.7 million viewers watched the Games per night on television, with the other 700,000 coming via other platforms.
“This was probably the most difficult Olympics of all time,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua told The Wall Street Journal.
Bevacqua cited COVID-19, low spectator numbers and China’s protocols as reasons that made the Games especially difficult. The restrictions are why NBC’s announcing teams stayed in the U.S. for the Games instead of traveling to Beijing.
While the ratings are far worse than those from Tokyo last summer or from Pyeongchang in 2018, they are a continuation of the downward trend for Olympics viewership. The 2018 Games averaged 19.8 million viewers during primetime, which at the time was an all-time low since NBC started broadcasting the Winter Olympics in 2002. The 2021 Games in Tokyo averaged 15.5 million primetime viewers, which was also the lowest for NBC since the network started broadcasting the Summer Olympics in 1988.
The best night for NBC was Feb. 13 following the Super Bowl when an average of 21.2 million viewers tuned in to watch. The opening ceremony, meanwhile, drew 16 million.
It wasn’t all bad news for NBC. Excluding the NFL, the Games were the most-watched primetime series since last summer’s Olympics, as most of television deals with declining ratings.
The network also highlighted its streaming service, Peacock, for increasing viewership via its $4.99 monthly subscription. NBCUniversal reported a 78% increase in streaming minutes compared to 2018, and Peacock had its best stretch of usage during the Games since it launched nearly two years ago.
“For Peacock, it was a home run,” Bevacqua told The Wall Street Journal. “We drastically improved our strategy in the time between Tokyo and Beijing.”
The success of the Games is vital for the company, which shelled out $7.75 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics in the U.S. through 2032.