The Olympics Proved TV Ratings are No Longer the Only Measurement that Counts

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: The Olympics Proved TV Ratings are No Longer the Only Measurement that Counts

Did we learn anything from the last two weeks of omnipresent Olympics coverage? Well, yeah. We did. Thanks especially to NBC and its cable networks, streaming feeds and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time measuring systems. Last week, I mused about the next 20 years in media -- that is, the broader media eco-system and what it might look like in the next couple of decades.  Live and learn, I posited. This next decade will definitely be one of near chaos as media companies -- all sorts of them -- try new things, try to resurrect old things and pray that change doesn’t happen so fast it doesn’t run over them. Just think of what happened to long distance telephony. So … back to NBC. So what did the peacock accomplish besides lower TV ratings?  Well, considering those changes that we’re all trying to outrun, quite a lot.

NBC’s multi-media offensive, a true first, worked.  People watched on phones, pads, laptops and desk computers.  All those not-quite-so-new-screens. They watched via and NBC sports apps.

Some even watched on TV sets in homes, at bars and restaurants, airplanes and ships, stores and more. They watched on supposedly free over-the-air NBC and Telemundo stations (albeit paying lots in retrans fees),  “cable” nets including USA, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, NBC Sports Network, NBC Universo and the Golf Channel and some could even watch a little 4K UltraHD and virtual reality (VR).

But the ratings faded from London’s in 2012 by about 17%; it was worse for the 18-49 demographic at 25%.  And the closing ceremony drew only half as many viewers as four years ago.

And NBC will be doing a lot of make-goods. Suppose that’s because of competition from the unusual Presidential contest?

Or is it because ratings methodologies haven’t caught up with the new media eco-system?

Or is it because tape-delayed “live sports” really don’t cut it anymore?

Or is it because there are simply too many TV channels that we’ve got issues with clutter and chaos?

I think more people watched than got counted. Just think of the live streams … some 78 million.  And every event in real time.

TV isn’t the only measurement that counts anymore. 

So, congratulations to NBC for living and learning … and watch out for Tokyo.

Random Notes

Want to keep up with stuff in virtual reality?  Try the free newsletter Haptical (, from Deniz Ergurel, who has been tracking VR for a few years.

About the next couple of Olympics in Asia … more tape delay will be on the way from PyeongChang, South Korea (Alpensia and other ski resorts from February 9-25, 2018) and Tokyo, Japan (July 24– August 9, 2020).

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of management or associated bloggers. 

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