Media Olympics Uncategorized

Tape delays and streaming could be hurting Olympic TV ratings

Between tape delays and NBC streaming competitions, a ratings drop for NBC was easy to see coming.

When the Olympic Opening Ceremony’s TV ratings were down the first night, it could’ve made sense. It was on one hour tape delay for the east coast and a four hour tape delay for viewers on Pacific time. Then the games started, and it wasn’t as if big events weren’t being shown the first few days. There was women’s gymnastics, swimming, soccer, and basketball. All sports that should rate with the American viewing public. Ratings were still down. As low as the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. It’s important to note the drops are specifically in the prime-time ratings which could logically lead to the idea that streaming — live — and the tape delay are affecting the overall TV ratings. If NBC lost $223 million on the London games, it is surely going to lose money on this year’s games with lower ratings.

Count me as one of the people who think the tape delay makes no sense. And, I am also on board with the sentiment that the explanation of the tape delay isn’t a good reason either.

“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey.”  — NBC Olympics chief marketing officer John Miller

OK? Even if it is true that doesn’t mean human interest pieces, story vignettes, followed by maybe the final race or event to round out the narrative doesn’t work. That gives NBC the best of both worlds. Live coverage and ratings from people who enjoy the story more than the competition.

Everything discussed here is true. No other sporting event has this type of delay. It goes on live and then if necessary there is a re-airing of the competition. We live in an age of connectivity. West coast residents knew about Lilly King’s victory and saw all of the Michael Phelps memes long before they aired, so there is less reason to watch — especially on a weekday work night. Twitter let us know the end of the story long before NBC could spin the narrative.

That doesn’t even take into account the people are watching on streaming if they want to actually watch live. So it stands to reason that people who really care about the competition and don’t want it to be spoiled will watch on the streaming app. That means they don’t have to watch on tape-delay, which means lower viewership numbers for prime time television. It’s not rocket science. These lower numbers should be expected.

It’s the new challenge the Olympics and every huge international sporting events need to address. The problem really is digital ads aren’t catching up to traditional television ad rates. That means NBC is beholden to the tape delay. If ratings continue to drop, it could mean trouble for NBC and its $1.275 billion average payout per games. If NBC lost $223 million on the London games, it is surely going to los

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