There has been a lot of speculation about NBC’s relationship with the Olympics after the Winter Games in Beijing.
It was clearly a perfect storm for the bad reviews. NBC has no control over the pandemic that moved the 2020 Summer Games to the late summer of 2021, but that calendar pressure means a lot of fatigue for viewers. (Personally, I couldn’t get into it at all, which was a major reason. Turns out the year of spacing between releases matters.) In addition to the time difference, various controversies, and more, NBC didn’t have much of a chance.
However, their deal with the IOC runs until 2032. It’s reasonable to wonder if NBC might be seeking to renegotiate or even exit their deal entirely, given the billions they pay.
David Bauder and Joe Reedy examined this particular question for the Associated Press, and their reports indicate that NBC has no interest in giving up that foothold, despite the low ratings.
As of Tuesday, an average of 12.2 million people watched the Olympics in prime time on NBC, cable or streaming service Peacock, 42 percent down from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The Nielsen Company said the average for NBC alone was 10 million, down 47 percent.
That’s even as the average live broadcast swelled after the Super Bowl, the night that brought in 24 million viewers.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said the ratings are in line with what they’ve told advertisers, who sell packages that include both linear and streaming coverage. NBC has yet to say whether the Beijing Games have made money or lost money.
A drop like this is certainly a big problem, but there are still reasons to be optimistic. First, ratings everywhere will continue to drop. NBC almost certainly planned this when signing such a long-term agreement in 2014. NBC also has a peacock to think about; The Olympics are an ideal property for stock flow, and not just for the weeks of actual competition. Qualification, other preliminary events, and shoulder programs can still find a home when broadcasting.
Then there’s the final Los Angeles award in 2028, when NBC won the first Summer Olympics to be hosted in the US since Atlanta in 1996. (There’s still a chance the 2030 Winter Olympics will end in the US, too.) Coming out before 2028 is unthinkable. However, the past few years have almost certainly been disappointing for NBC.
That’s just kind of the story for a lot of these rights deals amid the pandemic. Some things you just can’t control, no matter what NBC’s curated approach to Olympic coverage makes us believe.