The pageantry in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games has begun, but viewers so far are watching less than in recent years.  Friday night’s opening ceremonies, which NBC broadcast on a one-hour delay, were down 28 percent from the 2012 opening ceremony in London.

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Viewers in Millions

Lowest Ratings in 24 Years

If that weren’t enough, Ad Week reports that the 17.2 overnight rating is the lowest opening ceremony ratings in more than two decades.  Not since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona has there been a less watched opening night.

Viewers complained on social media about NBC’s decision to broadcast the opening ceremonies on a one-hour delay.  They also complained violently about the large number of ads.


NBC says the ad load is similar to what it did in London.  “Given that the commercial load was very similar to London, we believe that consumption habits, such as binge-watching and ‘marathoning,’ have changed perceptions among the viewing audience regarding commercials.” – NBC Spokesman via AdWeek

In effort to realize record profits from Rio 2016, NBC to become first network to air more than 60 minutes of commercials in a single hour.

— Norman Chad (@NormanChad) August 6, 2016

That’s not such good news for advertisers who pay premium rates to be included in the broadcast.  While ratings are lagging, ad sales are soaring.  NBC set a new Olympic record of its own with $1.2 billion dollars’ worth of national ads.  That’s a 20% increase from the 2012 London games.  It’s another tribute to TV’s ability to attract a mass audience in real-time in one place – something no other medium can really do.

But you know the ratings will rebound when the competition starts, right?  Wrong.

NBC’s Saturday ratings for live and taped competitions did dominate the night versus the other networks, but prime-time viewing was off 28% from 2012 and 14% from 2008.  Viewership levels were just about the same as a regular season NFL football game.

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Stay tuned.