×

NBC Sports says 16 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony across multiple platforms on Friday, a new record-low for the event since NBCUniversal began broadcasting the Olympics in 1988.

The total audience delivery (TAD) of 16 million viewers, which is a very impressive number compared to everything else on linear TV that isn’t the NFL, is down 43% compared to the 28.3 million viewers that watched the PyeongChang Winter Olympics opening ceremony in February 2018. The drop isn’t unexpected, as Olympics viewership in general has continued to fall — but it is a significant decline even accounting for that trend.

The 2022 Beijing Olympics are kicking off just six months after the close of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, which were postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic. The Winter Games also overlap with the Super Bowl, which airs on NBC on Feb. 13.

Throughout the Beijing Olympics, NBCU will face the challenge of attracting eyeballs to an event taking place amid a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the host country over human-rights violations, in a time when live TV viewership is already waning (again, except for the NFL). The primetime TV audience average for the Tokyo games fell more than 40% compared with the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Though comparing the usually more popular Summer Olympics to the Winter Olympics is less fair than Summer to Summer and Winter to Winter, for reference, NBC’s broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games Opening Ceremony drew 17 million viewers last July, which at the time was the smallest U.S. television audience for the event in 33 years. The Beijing Opening Ceremony has hit a new record-low in viewership.

Friday’s torch-lighting in Beijing aired live on NBC and the streaming service Peacock beginning at 6:30 a.m. ET yesterday morning and was replayed again in primetime. As was the case for the Tokyo Summer Olympics last summer, the Beijing Winter Games are being played in almost empty arenas to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among athletes, press and spectators.

Per NBC, Friday’s full-day Opening Ceremony coverage averaged nearly 14 million TV-only viewers. Peacock had its “best-ever weekday viewership” with total digital usage of Friday’s coverage coming to 190 million minutes.

On Friday, NBC Olympics’ on-site primetime host Mike Tirico was joined remotely by “Today” show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie to lead the network’s pening ceremony coverage. NBC brought in Andy Browne, the editorial director of Bloomberg New Economy Forum, and Jing Tsu, an East Asian studies and comparative literature professor at Yale University, as expert China analysts to offer commentary about China and its human-rights record during primetime coverage. Steve Kornacki and Olympian skier Lindsey Vonn also served as NBC Olympics correspondents.

NBCUniversal is airing 2,800 hours of Beijing Winter Games coverage across multiple platforms, including NBC, Peacock, USA Network, CNBC, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app from Feb. 2-20. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics marks NBCU’s 18th Olympic Games, 12th consecutive overall, and sixth straight Winter Games.