NBC’s $12 Billion Olympics Bet Stumbles, Thanks to Millennials
Rio broadcast ratings down 25 percent among 18 to 49 year olds
Sports fans get older while advertisers seek younger viewers
Back in June, Steve Burke described what he called his Olympics “nightmare.”
“We wake up someday and the ratings are down 20 percent,” the chief executive officer of NBCUniversal said at a conference. “If that happens, my prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come, and they didn’t know it.”
He has escaped that with the Rio games this year — but not by much. Prime-time broadcast viewership has been down about 17 percent compared to the London games four years ago. And in the 18-to-49-year-old age group coveted by advertisers, it’s been even worse. That audience has been 25 percent smaller, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
The Summer Olympics ratings slip, the first since 2000, raises fresh doubts about what used to be a sure thing: live sports would be a huge and growing draw no matter what. That’s why NBC parent Comcast Corp. paid $12 billion for exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics through 2032. Others, including Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, 21st Century Fox Inc., Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp., have made long-term bets on football, baseball and basketball.
To be sure, many sporting events are as big as ever. The Super Bowl in February pulled in 112 million viewers, making it the third most-watched event in TV history. On the other hand, Villanova’s victory over North Carolina in the men’s college basketball championship drew 37 percent fewer viewers than last year’s title game, though that may have had something to do with the fact that, for the first time, the match-up was on a cable channel, not a broadcast network.
One issue is that many fans are getting older. The average age over the past decade of National Football League and Major League Baseball viewers has increased by four and seven years, respectively, to 47 and 53, according to Ben Thompson, founder of the blog Stratechery.
“Sports is less ingrained in the younger demographic,” said Brandon Ross, an analyst at BTIG Research. “It has been replaced by other things like video games and e-sports and Snapchat feeds.”
And Americans have more entertainment choices. During the 2012 Olympics, Snapchat was in its infancy and Netflix had about half as many U.S. subscribers.
NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said the network has a plan to profit from its Olympics investment, by giving people more options. This year, for example, the network put more than 6,000 hours of coverage online and allowed BuzzFeed to run its Olympics Snapchat channel.
Through Tuesday, NBC said, 78 million unique users streamed on the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com, up 24 percent from same period in London. …
… read on at bloomberg.com