How Downhill Are Beijing’s Winter Olympics Ratings (So Far) vs. 2018?

Early declines from Pyeongchang have been steeper than the ski slopes

Beijing Olympics

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Viewership for the Beijing Olympics hasn’t exactly been golden thus far.

Through Wednesday, when U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen won gold, Beijing viewership on linear television was down 55% in primetime from the comparable Pyeongchang 2018 days.

At the time of this writing, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were averaging 9.4 million total TV viewers per evening, down from 21 million total viewers in 2018. In the key demo of adults 18-49, the linear-TV ratings decline in primetime was -66%, from a 5.0 rating four years ago to a 1.7 currently.

In primetime Total Audience Delivery (TAD) numbers, which include streaming via Peacock as well as mobile/tablet viewership, Beijing’s average of 12.3 million viewers across multiple platforms is down 47% from Pyeongchang. That’s a little more palatable for NBCUniversal. A little more.

The Beijing Olympics got off to a rocky start. Last Friday’s Opening Ceremony, which averaged 16 million total viewers, declined 43% in viewers from the previous Winter Olympics (28.3 million viewers). The Beijing kickoff was also below last year’s Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in Tokyo (17 million).

Clearly, it’s only gotten rockier from there.

The Summer Games are typically higher rated than the Winter Games — and by a decent margin — but the delay of the Tokyo competition from 2020 to 2021 due the global COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help matters.

Pyeongchang and Beijing have similar time differences to U.S. soil. The South Korean city is 14 hours ahead of eastern standard time (New York) and 17 hours ahead of pacific time (Los Angeles). The China city is just one hour closer to us. Neither of those are anywhere near what one would consider ideal for the broadcasting of live events, therefore NBC is generally repackaging competitions from earlier in the day for primetime (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.). Diehard fans can watch the events unfold live on Peacock, and anybody with a search engine at their disposal (so, everyone) can find out the results ahead of time if they’re so inclined.

What the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics did not have to deal with was COVID-19, which has rendered the ongoing Games essentially spectator-less. That’s another factor that undeniably hurts the TV-viewing experience. And then there are China’s human rights issues. The geopolitical realities are overshadowing these Games for some, though on a whole that impact is likely not overwhelmingly material.