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2020 Tokyo Olympics Propel Peacock Forward as Linear TV Ratings Fall

With streaming on the rise and COVID’s impact on live audiences, consumers are exploring their options for watching major events. Some viewers decided to stream sporting events and awards shows, which means they didn’t get the TV attention they have in years past.

The same is true for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the way ratings have been indicating. Olympic TV views are down compared to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympics kicked off on Saturday and reported 15.9 million viewers for NBC, which is a 32% decrease from the first night of the Rio Games. On Sunday, viewers were down 36% from the second day of the 2016 Games, as 20 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2020 Olympics. Monday’s viewers, 16.8 million, were down 46% from the third day of the Rio Games.

“The TV ratings are down more than anticipated,” said Lee Berke, president of LHB Sports, Media and Entertainment. “Between the lack of a live audience, the move to streaming and the ongoing dropouts of key competitors due to COVID, all of it seems to have a negative impact.”


Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that gives access to up to 15,000 hours of content including original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series.

It will include news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.

Just like other streaming services, Peacock will have their own original series including reboots of Save By The Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica. They also have shows like Rutherford Falls (Ed Helms), Dr. Death (Alec Baldwin), and a behind-the-scenes docs-series about Saturday Night Live.

The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like the entire Dick Wolf library including Law & Order and Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

The service will also feature blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

While this is bad news on the TV side, it’s good news for Peacock. On Monday, the Games were streamed by 746,000 viewers, which marks a new record for Olympic streaming. Since the Games began, users have streamed 1 billion minutes of Olympics programming on Peacock, the NBC Olympics app, and the NBC Sports app, according to NBC.

In Comcast’s earnings call Thursday, CEO Brian Roberts reported 54 million sign-ups and 20 million active accounts. This is a 50% increase from quarter one’s numbers. Many factors contribute to these impressive totals, but Peacock’s coverage of sports and the Olympics, in particular, plays a role.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ positive impact on Peacock doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Peacock chairman Matt Strauss previously referred to the Games as a “meaningful driver” for the streaming service. Peacock was previously falling behind competitors, but exclusive Olympic coverage is keeping the streamer in the race.

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