The 2022 Winter Olympics that wrapped up in China over the weekend have been a ratings disaster for NBC, leaving the major network questioning its $7.75 billion investment that gave it exclusive US media rights to the Games through 2032.
The New York Times called the Olympic Games "a joyless spectacle," while other media adjectives include "the low bar of avoiding total disaster."
According to the Associated Press, through Tuesday, an average of 12.2 million watched the Olympics in primetime on NBC, cable, or its Peacock streaming service, a 42-percent dip from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
"Only 10 million watched NBC alone, a 47-percent drop from 2018, and through early last week, it was down 57 percent in the critical 25-54 age demographic from the Seoul games," Fox News reported, noting the Super Bowl viewership boost NBC got from airing the Olympics right after the network aired the game.
Slate said NBC's TV ratings didn't take into account metrics from viwers watching on social media or streaming services, but acknowledged how "China's blatant disregard of human rights added a repulsive element to this year’s festivities."
AP cited NBC's significant increase in streaming minutes from 2018, going from 2.2 billion to 3.5 billion. Slate observed: "To note that the reach of YouTube and TikTok is extending NBC's viewership into the hundreds of millions might unintentionally send the network’s more lucrative broadcast audience into the sea of on-demand digital video consumption, where their value would be diluted."
NBC News even admitted that when the Olympics drew to a close Sunday, the Games "will go down in history as much for their coronavirus restrictions and geopolitical tensions, as their nail-biting competitions and emotional moments."
Fox News reported that 2022 is NBC's second ratings flop in recent years, a back-to-back dud after the pandemic-delayed 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games averaged 12.9 million primetime viewers, which was its smallest summer audience since NBC began airing it in 1988. NBC's Tokyo Olympics had dropped 49 percent of viewership compared to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics back in 2016 and 58 percent compared to the 2012 London edition, according to Fox News.