In a pandemic summer, a fanless Olympics isn’t as much of a draw.
Friday’s Opening Ceremony averaged 17 million viewers on NBC both live and delayed in Nielsen’s early fast national ratings. That number will rise once final out-of-home numbers are in early this week.
The prior lowest mark for an Opening Ceremony is 20.1 million for the 1988 Seoul Games. Per Sports Media Watch, the prior six Opening Ceremonies averaged at least 25 million viewers; the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 averaged 27.8 million, and the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016 averaged 26.5 million. London’s 2012 Opening Ceremony holds the record at 40.7 million.
On the “any news is good news” front, NBC noted that average online and streaming viewership grew 76 percent from PyeongChang and 72 percent from Rio, a reflection of viewers’ rejection of traditional broadcast formats.
Although the numbers for the Opening Ceremony will rise, the 17 million already marks it as the most-watched non-football sporting event of 2021. As Sports Media Watch notes, the Opening Ceremony right now would slot in at 17th place overall, just ahead of the Baylor-Gonzaga NCAA men’s basketball national championship and just behind the Alabama-Ohio State NCAA football national championship.