Olympics 2022: Smallest Audience Ever

Olympics 2022 End with Smallest Audience Ever

NBCUniversal streaming registered solid returns, and USA Network got boost for its coverage of the games.


The 2022 Winter Olympics ended as the least watched ever, but there are still a few bright spots, particularly on the streaming side of the equation, for the company amid the smaller overall figures.

The topline figure is that the Olympics averaged 11.4 million viewers across all of NBCU’s platforms in primetime. That’s down 42 percent from the 19.8 million average for the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea — in keeping with the trend both from the first few days of the games (and, in fact, closing the gap with four years ago a little bit) and the general decline of broadcast network ratings in the past four years.


Beijing Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony


NBCU’s coverage from Beijing is also down about 26 percent from the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which averaged 15.5 million primetime viewers in the company’s “Total Audience Delivery” metric (a combination of Nielsen ratings for TV and Adobe Analytics figures for digital platforms). That too is on par with the declines from last summer from the opening week of the winter games. (Each of the last three Olympics, for what it’s worth, took place in eastern Asia, presenting similar time zone differences between the host cities and the United States.)

On the upside, the streaming audience for Beijing was either the largest or second largest for any Olympics to date, depending on the measurement. Streaming on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app had an average primetime viewership of 516,000 viewers, up 8 percent from the summer and an all-time high for any Olympics in the streaming era. Streaming made up about 4.5 percent of the total primetime audience for the games.

U.S. viewers watched 4.3 billion minutes of Olympic coverage over 18 days on the NBCU outlets and social media platforms, the most for any winter games and behind only the 5.6 billion minutes for Tokyo last year. Steaming minutes improved by 78 percent over the 2018 Winter Olympics, and NBCU said Peacock had its “best 18-day stretch of usage” in the 19 months since its national launch. Peacock streamed every event live from Beijing.

“NBCUniversal’s presentation of the Beijing Olympics dominated across all platforms and once again showed that nothing captivates Americans for 18 consecutive days and nights like the Olympic Games,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “The power of the NBC broadcast network delivered large audiences every night, while USA Network registered the best two-week stretch of any sports and entertainment cable network. With sharply increased signups, usage and awareness, Peacock streamed every Olympic moment for the first time ever and delivered a user experience that was greatly enhanced from just six months ago. Over the course of the games, we delivered what was promised to our advertising partners and delivered unmatched promotion for our company.”

USA, which carried much of NBCU’s cable sports commitments after the shuttering of sports channels at the end of 2021, averaged 1.4 million primetime viewers and 937,000 across the full broadcast day from Feb. 5-19.

It ranked No. 1 among all sports and entertainment cable networks in that span.

Excluding the Tokyo Olympics, the primetime average was the best 15-day run for USA since September 2018.

NBCUniversal also said that the Olympics generated nearly 20 billion ad impressions for adults, according to metrics from the company’s measurement partner iSpot, more than three times as many impressions per unit over the course of the games than ABC, CBS and Fox combined.