NBC's digital ratings show the future of Olympics coverage

NBC's Olympics ratings were down on television, but the network surpassed some unbelievable benchmarks digitally.
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While there are a number of reports on the poor TV ratings that the 2016 Rio Olympics received, NBC was mainly able to make up for these lackluster television ratings with digital streaming audiences. Nielson Media Research crunched the numbers and found that an average audience of only 24.5 million watched the Olympics every night of the two-week event.

But apparently they found their way to their computers and smartphones because there were about 100 million (unique) users who streamed 3.3 billion minutes of the games. While it’s difficult to compare the two numbers equally, it’s obvious more fans were looking to stream the Olympics than ever before. With the shift in viewing audiences moving from their television sets to their smart devices and PCs, it could open up a plethora of opportunities for the future of the Olympics.

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“By putting events—for the first time ever in prime time—on NBCSN, Bravo and at times USA Network, as well as streaming prime time in pattern, we learned a lot about consumption habits and attracted new audiences,” Brandon Levine, vice president and group director of media of DigitasLBi said in a statement. “We’ll use all of the data from all of our platforms to develop our plans for Pyeongchang in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020.”

One thing that could have helped with the increase was the fact that NBC live-streamed about 4,500 hours (out of 6,755 hours of Olympic coverage total) in comparison to the 3,500 hours in 2012.

Something that NBC was able to do was sell about $1.26 billion in ad time throughout the entirety of the Olympics. “We surpassed what we thought was an unattainable threshold,” Seth Winter, NBC executive vice president of advertising sales, said in a statement.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are already being foreseen as the more technologically advanced and futuristic event to date so knowing that people are making the switch to streaming and handhelds will only help it thrive in a world that will more than likely be digitally dominant in 2020.