U.S. athletes won more medals, 113, and more gold medals, 39, at the Tokyo Olympics than any other country, but fewer Americans tuned in to watch them than in previous years, NBCUniversal said Monday. The average prime-time viewership over the 17 days, 15.5 million households, was the lowest since NBC started broadcasting the Games in 1988 and represented a 42 percent drop from the Rio Olympics in 2016.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said NBC was "prepared for these numbers," adding, "For better or worse, I really do believe the pandemic and postponement impacted these games," even though they still "will be very, very profitable for NBCUniversal." NBC owns the U.S. media rights to the Olympics through 2032.
U.S. viewers had several complaints about NBC's Olympics coverage, including the time delays and the fractured coverage over several channels and streaming sites. But NBCUniversal executives argued in a memo to employees Monday that "nearly 16 million viewers per night" is actually "a huge broadcast audience by today's standards and we regularly doubled or tripled the combined viewership of the competition."