Comcast/NBCU see huge 35% drop in Olympics Opening Ceremony ratings

NBC Sports studio Rio Olympics 2016

Comcast’s massive investment into the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is off to an inauspicious start, with audience ratings for Friday’s Opening Ceremonies down 35 percent over 2012’s London Games to average of just 26.5 million viewers.

It was the lowest rated Opening Ceremonies since 2004’s kickoff in Athens. Ratings for Saturday’s prime-time coverage, meanwhile, were down 28 percent compared to the London Games to an average of 20.7 million viewers

In licensing fees alone, Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit is paying $7.75 billion to carry the Games through 2032.

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With NBCU streaming many Rio Games events through Comcast’s X1 platform, company reps insists the lower Nielsen numbers are a result of shifting viewer patterns, not dissonance towards the Olympics. They say 80.5 million viewers took in at least some of the Rio Games this weekend.

“To expect the same pure television consumption four years removed from London just isn’t logical, but overall consumption is at or above our expectations,” NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes said to the Wall Street Journal. Any comparisons to London Games ratings, he added, are “apples to oranges.”

Across operating units, meanwhile, Comcast/NBCU is making a massive investment in coverage, carrying a record 6,000 hours of combined Rio Games coverage, all of it showcased on Comcast Cable’s X1 video platform. 

Speaking during Comcast’s second-quarter earnings call late last month, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said ad sales efforts for the Rio Games exceeded London, which produced a profit of $120 million for Comcast/NBCU.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story

Related articles:
Comcast/NBCU to broadcast 85 hours of Olympics coverage in VR
Comcast's Roberts: X1 OIympics presentation will be 'glimpse of the future of television'
Comcast's Burke: Smaller cable channels are going bye-bye


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