In TV’s never-ending morning wars, one law has been immutable: When NBC shows the Olympics, its “Today” wins in the ratings. That is not the case in this go-round.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” won more viewers overall during NBC’s first week of coverage of the Winter Olympics from Beijing, the first time it has done so in more than three decades, according to data from Nielsen. While “Today” continued to lead in the critical audience demographic of people between 25 and 54 — the viewership most preferred by advertisers in news programs — it was by just 4,000 people. “GMA” has not won the ratings gold medal during the Olympics since the week of February 7, 1992, according to historical Nielsen data.
“Today” outmaneuvered “GMA” in all audience categories during the first week of NBC’s broadcast of the Summer Olympics last year.
The numbers illustrate the challenge NBCUniversal has had with its Olympics telecasts during the pandemic era. Because of coronavirus, the company has had to televise two different sets of Olympics Games — summer and winter — in a span of just six months, potentially leading to some viewer fatigue around the global sports extravaganza. Pandemic restrictions and a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games have exacerbated some of NBCU’s production hurdles, with smaller in-person audiences and less access to athletes.
The hosts of “Today” have traveled to the Olympics site since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, a strategy that has given the show early access to U.S. Olympic winners and their families. In 2022, however, only co-anchor Craig Melvin has traveled to the Games, while the rest of “Today” remains at Studio 1A in New York at NBCUniversal’s midtown headquarters.
Comcast and NBCU have agreed to pay $7.75 billion for broadcast rights to the Olympic Games between 2021 and 2032.
For the week of Feb. 11, 2022, “GMA” won approximately 3.34 million viewers, compared with about 3.067 million for “Today.” The viewership levels were separated by about 270,000.
NBCU’s Olympics coverage has also failed to boost the fortunes of “NBC Nightly News,” which came in second in both total audience and the 25 to 54 demographic to ABC’s “World News Tonight.” In some markets, “Nightly” ran out of its time slot to accommodate Olympics coverage.