Why is Olympic Viewership Down this year?
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What Happened to Olympic Viewership in 2021?!?

Olympic ratings are down by almost 42% since the 2016 Olympics. 19.5 million viewers tuned in to the Olympics on Thursday, to put this into perspective 96.4 million viewers tuned into the US Super Bowl in 2021. 

The Haps

1. COVID – We are still at the height of a pandemic, the findings of the Delta and Gamma variants have led multiple countries back into lock down to prevent the spreading. Two members of the Ugandan team were detected with the Delta variant. Yet the show goes on, putting members of every country involved at risk. Though it looks like if Japan chose to cancel the Olympics for this, they would owe the International Olympics Committee around $30 billion. 

2. Cable – With Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBOMax, and more who needs an expensive cable subscription? We can now stream almost anything we want, at any time, we as a society have evolved past the need for cable television. NBC chose their brand new streaming platform, Peacock, as the sole provider to stream the Olympics. Having partnered with someone more reputable, like HBOMax which gathered 2.3 million viewers for the premier of Wonder Woman 1985, they could have had a more reputable clientele to watch. 

3. Simone Biles – Simone Biles calls for a mental health day while the world watches. Simone Biles takes daily prescription ADHD medication, Ritalin, which is illegal in Japan. Biles filed for a Yakkan Shoumei, an “important certificate”, and was permitted her medications in Japan. But this call opened a world wide discussion on the mental health of our athletes, and subsequently took the best gymnast in the world out of the game, both of which could cause a decline in viewers. 

4. No Live Viewers – This ties back into number one, we are still in the middle of the pandemic and want to reduce the spread, but this should only positively affect the box office numbers here. If people aren’t AT the olympics, those same people should at least be tuning in at home? The hustle and bustle of the live audience at the Olympics is almost half of the fun, so we understand why people could be less interested. 

5. Politics – Nowadays everything is political, with COVID and the state of the world this is to be expected. There are protests in Japan about hosting the event in the first place. The Japanese Government is cutting off athlete speeches that get too political, but the driving force here is that everyone watches the Olympics. Even Republicans watch the Olympics, even Democrats watch the Olympics, not allowing the athletes to make the viewers feel either way could be keeping more viewers than it is driving away. 

What Does It Mean for Marketers? 

As a Marketer, if you’re planning on helping put on an event, consider the political realm it’s happening in. Our biggest issue with this event is that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s affecting everything from ticket sales to the event, to the mental health of the athletes. An event that was once such a huge success across all fields, is now holding on by a thread to get views.

Consider the channels on which it will be played, most people have completely foregone Cable Television, if this is the primary platform for your event will it be a success? If the Olympics views going down by 42% is considered a success, then perhaps this is your ideal platform. If not, consider suggesting other platforms.

Will your primary demographic be left or right? If both affect your market, maybe banning protests on the podium is a good move for you. Marketers can take this event and learn from the IOCs mistakes.



The lovely content team here at DigitalMarketer works hard to make sure you have the best blog posts to read. But some posts require a group effort, and we decided to stop the rock-paper-scissors tournaments that decided the byline so that we had more time to write. Besides, we all graduated from kindergarten: we can share.

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