NBCU Claims Tokyo Olympics Have Generated 100 Billion Minutes of Viewing

Caeleb Dressel of Team United States competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
NBCU says the Olympics are making a splash, like Caeleb Dressel of the U.S. (Image credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

While low ratings and empty arenas have painted a negative picture of the Tokyo Olympics, NBCUniversal said the games have made a strong impression, generating more than 100 billion minutes of viewing across all platforms as of Wednesday. 

NBCU did not have a comparable figure for the 2016 Rio Games.

NBCU said that the Olympics are on pace to deliver more minutes in consumption than the average month of Netflix and March Madness combined. Viewers have streamed more than 3 billion minutes of Tokyo Olympics coverage across NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports App and Peacock, the company said.

“With just a few days left in the Tokyo Olympics, it is evident that consumers’ appetite for the Games has them tuning in at all hours of the day and across all platforms, with the biggest moments dominating the conversation across all social platforms,” NBCU said in a statement.

“Audiences said they feel more connected during the Games than they have throughout the entire pandemic. It’s brought communities together in Tokyo and at home, a feeling that goes beyond the competition,” NBCU said. “Advertisers have been the benefactors through it all, acting as an extension of the Games in a totally new way, and consumers are connecting with them, leading to greater recall and positive long-term brand impact.”

The Olympics have faced difficulties ranging from a pandemic that has kept some star athletes from competing and fans from attending events to a changing media landscape in which traditional ratings are falling while digital and streaming grow. 

NBC planned more than 7,000 hours of coverage of a variety of platforms, but the first place most observers look to gauge the success of an event is prime time TV ratings, and those have not been good.

Through Tuesday, the games have been averaging 16.8 million viewers a night, down from 29 million during the Rio games in 2016.

The lower-than-expected viewership forced NBCU to offer make-good ads to sponsors who are paying more than $1 billion to advertise the games.

Despite the ratings, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said he still expects the games to turn a profit for parent company Comcast, which has made a huge, multi-year commitment to the Olympics.

For advertisers NBCU said its research shows that  the games have been engaging and creating immediate impact. Viewers are 35% more likely to search for brands that advertise in Olympic coverage versus competitive broadcast and cable norms. That’s up 14% from the first weekend of the games.

Commercials in the Olympics are creating a 15% lift in brand recall and a 21% lift in message breakthrough for sponsors. 

Co-branded vignettes within the Olympics are delivering higher scores for the same brands than similar vignettes on competitive networks, with 50% stronger brand memorability scores and 36% higher likeability. 

In-show integrations are 7% more effective than non-Olympic integrations and 45% more effective than standard ads.

Brands are getting a halo effect for participating in the games, with NBC research showing that 69% of consumers said brands that support the game are helping the world come back together after the pandemic and two in three saying brands are helping bring families back together. Advertisers in the games are thought of as global leaders by 62% of consumers and leaders in their categories by 61%.

There have been some complaints that viewers are finding it difficult to find the Olympic events they want to see, but NBCU’s research shows that Olympic viewers are reporting feelings of patriotism and community pride.

The research found that 88% of consumers feel the Olympics are an important global event, with 69% saying they have increased pride in their country. Supporting their country is the number one reason to watch the Olympics.

NBC said that the Olympics are also reverberating in social media, with tweet value up 852% since the start of the games. On TikTok the @NBCOlympics account has more than 1.5 million followers and has generated 4.3 million views and 329,000 video creations.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.