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Peacock Sweats as Tokyo Olympics Teeter Toward Cancellation

Ben Bowman

We’re just over three months from the opening ceremonies, and Tokyo officials are sowing doubt that we’re ever going to see the Summer Games. Peacock brass are likely biting their fingernails as they wait to hear the official decision.

An International Olympic Committee spokesperson says, “We are fully concentrated and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year, and working at full speed towards the opening ceremony on July 23.” But is that realistic?

The Olympics have been a thorn in Peacock’s side since last year. The streaming service was supposed to launch to the general public in tandem with the event, but when the games were put on ice, Peacock showed up to the streaming party significantly underdressed.

Japanese leaders are coming to grips with the idea that the pandemic hasn’t slowed enough to guarantee safety for athletes and fans. “If it seems impossible (to host the Olympics) any more, then we have to stop it, decisively,” said Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Japan is in the midst of its fourth wave of coronavirus infections, and vaccines aren’t rolling out fast enough to all the countries that would be involved. India, especially, is facing a dire trend. Organizers are considering every possibility, from canceling the games outright to holding the events without spectators.

If the Olympics are postponed or canceled, that leaves Peacock flailing once again. The service launched exactly one year ago for Comcast customers, and it’s struggling to gain a foothold in the streaming wars. With precious few original series and no Olympics in sight, the single biggest driver of subscriptions was the addition of “The Office” in January. Although the service recently acquired all WWE content, last weekend’s WrestleMania only infuriated users who couldn’t pause, rewind, or start the event from the beginning.

Another setback: the service isn’t available on Fire TV devices without sideloading the app.

Peacock leaders are likely expecting that the Olympics are such a massive event, its arrival would break all such stalemates and drive a greater number of subscribers. But if these Olympics fall through, Peacock would continue wandering the wilderness until next year’s Winter Games in Beijing.

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