Rio 2016

Rio Ratings Roundup: Despite Lagging Primetime Numbers, NBC Sees Solid 'Total Audience Delivery'

While Rio 2016 Olympics primetime ratings are down compared to London 2012, NBC’s Rio viewership is about much more than just the primetime linear television feed on it’s broadcast network. The network is focusing on it its Total Audience Delivery metric (average minute viewing across broadcast, cable, and digital) in an effort to better reflect its total audience for Rio. In addition, NBC continues to see an explosion in its live streaming audience, as Rio 2016 streaming (via and the NBC Sports app) has already surpassed the entire London Games and topped one billion minutes on Wednesday. 

Putting Total Audience Delivery Numbers in Perspective
Viewership for the opening ceremony last Friday was down 35% compared to London in 2012 and viewership plummeted 28% on the first day of competition compared to four years ago. NBC’s average audience of 28.6 million through Day 5 of the Games was down roughly 20% from the 35.6 million who tuned in for the London Games. In addition, viewership among the 18-to-34 demographic dropped 32% compared to four years ago.

Specialty camera at diving blockHowever, NBC believes the real story is in the Total Audience Delivery metric. For example, Tuesday night’s NBC-only Rio Olympics coverage (8-11:44 p.m. ET/PT) averaged 33.4 million viewers (18.9/33 household rating) – the highest NBC primetime viewership of the Rio Olympics, but still down from the 38.8 million that watched the comparable London Games  night in 2012. However, the Total Audience Delivery for Tuesday’s primetime coverage averaged a 20.5 household rating with 36.1 million viewers (also ranking as the best night of the 2016 Rio Olympics in both metrics), which still trails the London numbers (where there was no simultaneous live streaming and no competing primetime Olympic cable coverage), but comes much closer.

The story was much the same for Wednesday night, when NBC’s broadcast primetime coverage drew 26.4 million viewers, but the TAD was 28.6 million (still down from 30.8 million in London).

Through the first five nights of competition, Total Audience Delivery for Rio 2016 and the 2012 London Olympics:

Day Rio 2016 London 2012* Rio 2016 London 2012*
1st Sat. 23.5 million 28.7 million 13.0 rating 15.8 rating
1st Sun. 31.8 million 36.0 million 17.3 rating 19.8 rating
1st Mon. 31.5 million 31.6 million 18.1 rating 18.0 rating
1st Tues. 36.1 million 38.7 million 20.5 rating 21.8 rating
1st Wed. 28.6 million 30.8 million 16.5 rating 17.9 rating

Live Streaming and TAD Spotlight
On Wednesday, NBC Olympics’ live streaming for Rio 2016 topped one billion minutes (1.05 billion) – the first time the threshold has ever been crossed for an Olympics.  The 1.05 billion minutes of live streaming via and the NBC Sports app is up 232% from the equivalent day in London. This milestone comes one day after NBCOlympics’ live streaming for the Rio Olympics surpassed the entire London Games.

NBC Olympics coverage on other channels and digital streaming has lifted primetime viewership by at least 7% each night (chart below).

Date Total Audience Delivery NBC-only viewership TAD Lift
Sat. 8/6 23.5 million 20.6 million 14%
Sun. 8/7 31.8 million 29.8 million 7%
Mon. 8/8 31.5 million 28.9 million 9%
Tues. 8/9 36.1 million 33.4 million 8%
Wed. 8/10 28.6 million 26.4 million 8%

Highlights From Wednesday Night
Wednesday night’s NBC-only Rio Olympics coverage (8-11:12 p.m. ET/PT) averaged 26.4 million viewers. The telecast, highlighted by Katie Ledecky and the U.S. women capturing gold in the 200m freestyle relay final; Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte competing in the men’s 200m IM semifinal; Australia’s Kyle Chalmers outdueling Team USA’s Nathan Adrian in the men’s 100m free final; and American Josh Prenot earning a silver medal in the men’s 200 breaststroke final, posted a 15.1/27 household rating.

NBCSN on Wednesday night delivered its best primetime numbers of the Rio Olympics. The network’s live coverage – featuring the second half of the U.S. men’s basketball team’s 10-point win over Australia and the Brazil-Denmark men’s soccer match — averaged 1.9 million viewers.

The U.S. Men’s Basketball team’s win over Australia averaged 3.4 million viewers on NBCSN – topping each of the team’s games on the network at the London Olympics.  The Brazil-Denmark Men’s Soccer match, which immediately followed basketball, averaged 1.3 million viewers to rank as the most-watched Men’s Soccer match of the Rio Games.

CNBC averaged 734,000 viewers from 5-8 p.m. ET – up 63% from the comparable day in London. Coverage featured rugby, beach volleyball, fencing, and table tennis.

MSNBC averaged 487,000 viewers for its coverage of water polo, beach volleyball, shooting, fencing and soccer from Noon-5pm ET – up 41% from last year.

USA Network’s coverage of beach volleyball, fencing, rugby, and basketball averaged 521,000 viewers from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET.

The top five metered markets for Wednesday’s NBC primetime were Salt Lake City (24.4/44), Denver (22.3/42), Indianapolis (20.0/33), St. Louis (19.4/32), and Columbus (19.2/32).


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