Readers: Olympic ratings will be down
Streaming will impact viewership, as will lack of big names
February 7, 2014
The Winter Olympics will draw huge ratings for NBC, but they may not be as big as 2010, when the Games took place in Vancouver.
Media buyers and planners think the Olympics in Sochi, which officially open today, will post lower TV viewership than they did four years ago due to a number of factors, including increased digital streaming and the volatile political climate in Russia, which may discourage some people from watching.
That’s according to a recent Media Life survey inviting readers to weigh in on the Olympics.
Asked whether ratings for the 2014 Sochi Games will be better than, about the same as, or below the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the greatest share of readers, 55 percent, predicted they will be below.
Thirty-four percent predicted they will be about the same as the 2010 Games and 11 percent said better than 2010.
Readers noted concerns about U.S. viewers not watching the Olympics out of disdain for Russia’s anti-gay policies and threats of terrorism by Islamist groups.
“There is hesitation over the Russian controversies,” noted one reader.
The 2010 Games averaged a 13.8 household rating, according to Nielsen. Those Olympics took place on the same continent as the U.S., which made it easier to air events live in primetime.
That won’t be the case in Sochi, which is nine hours ahead of Eastern time. The big events will be tape-delayed for primetime, though they will be streamed live on the web earlier in the day.
Readers think that could lead to an increase in digital viewership.
Asked if online viewing will have any appreciable impact on primetime viewing, 52 percent of readers chose this answer: “Maybe a bit. I think we’ll see a surge in online and mobile viewership, but that still represents a very small percentage of Olympic viewers.”
Eighteen percent said no, only die-hard Olympic fans will use the digital options, and 16 percent said no, online viewership isn’t big enough to cannibalize offline.
The remaining 14 percent said they do expect to see “a notable TV ratings decline tied to online and mobile viewing.”
Readers also think the absence of stars from past Winter Games could have an impact on this year’s viewership. Asked how the absence of gold medalists such as Apolo Anton Ohno and Lindsey Vonn will affect ratings, two-thirds of readers said it will have some or a very big impact.
A third said the dearth of recognizable athletes won’t have any impact and people will tune in no matter who is competing.
“There’s a real lack of star power,” noted one reader.
Media Life also asked readers what their biggest concern about the Games is. The greatest share, a third, said it’s how much digital viewership will impact TV viewership.
Thirty-one percent said their biggest concern is TV ratings for the Games and how they will affect other networks.
And 13 percent said they are most concerned about how the American team performs.
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