Beijing's Olympic ranking was the worst of any Winter Games

An average of 11.4 million viewers watched the Beijing Olympics on NBCUniversal platforms each night – the smallest prime-time audience ...


An average of 11.4 million viewers watched the Beijing Olympics on NBCUniversal platforms each night – the smallest prime-time audience ever for any Winter Games and a far cry from 19.8 million viewers nights of the Pyeongchang Games in 2018.

Over two weeks of coverage, starting with the chilling opening show on Feb. 4 and ending on Sunday, drew 160 million total viewers on NBC television, the Peacock streaming service and other platforms, NBCUniversal said Monday.

Dramatic storylines proliferated over NBCUniversal’s 2,800 hours of coverage, but few catered to an audience that might have thirsted for forays of escapism and tales of triumph. Pandemic restrictions have forced competitions to unfold in a bubble. The result: mostly empty booths and NBC announcers such as Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski having to deliver their dispatches from a resort in Connecticut.

Many of the most memorable episodes lacked the uplifting and inspirational qualities that make successful Olympic broadcasts. Mikaela Shiffrinan American skier who had won three Olympic medals before arriving in Beijing, stumbled disastrously in several events and returned home empty-handed. Kamila Valievathe 15-year-old Russian figure skating star, collapsed during his free skating while wiping out a doping scandal. When she came off the ice, her coach berated her on camera.

Geopolitical tensions also weighed on the Olympic Games. China tried to cleanse the Games of political overtones use bots and fake accounts. And concern for the well-being of the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuaiwho last year accused a politician of sexual abuse, has threatened to upstage the Games.

“The Olympic brand is really struggling. A lot of people don’t feel that emotional connection anymore,” said Tang Tang, a media professor at Kent State University who has studied the Olympics.

The Beijing Olympics lacked the kind of powerful storytelling that transformed American swimmer Michael Phelps and his eight gold medals in must-see television in 2008. One of the stars of this year’s Games, the Chinese-American skier Eileen Gu, competed for China rather than the United States. And the players of National Hockey League did not participate.

“The public watches the Olympics for the stories. They need that superhero story, that star quality,” Professor Tang said. “They don’t really see the Olympics as a real sporting event, but rather as something more personal.”

In 2014, NBCUniversal bought the US broadcast rights to the Olympics through 2032 for $7.75 billion. But the Beijing Games, and those in Tokyo six months earlier, were logistically difficult. The Tokyo Olympics attracted the smallest audience since NBCUniversal began covering the Summer Games in 1988.

In Beijing, NBCUniversal struggled with a 1 p.m. time difference to New York, which meant that social media and news reports typically aired Olympic results long before viewers watched a broadcast. The company said this year’s Olympics were its most-streamed Winter Games to date, with 4.3 billion minutes streamed across digital and social media.

Long before this month, NBCUniversal had told advertisers to expect lower ratings for the Beijing Games compared to the Pyeongchang event. The company said Monday that its coverage in Beijing surpassed anything on primetime television except for the NFL.

The biggest night of this year’s Games took place on February 13, when 24 million people tuned in, many of them likely from NBCUniversal. Super Bowl broadcast. The football match attracted 112 million viewers, or 70% of the total viewers who watched the Olympics for more than two weeks.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Beijing's Olympic ranking was the worst of any Winter Games
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