By Peter Gleason
The Rio Olympics are over, and the full reckoning of the TV ratings won’t be known for a while.
But this much is known:
For Philly’s Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, the Rio telecaster, there hasn’t been this much pain and embarrassment since its unfriendly bid for Disney blew up in 2004.
NBCUniversal heads into the next three Olympics — all of them in Asia — faced with a critical question: Was the lower-than-expected prime-time viewership for the just-completed Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro a fluke or a harbinger of fraying audiences over the next six years.
The answer, for now, is unknown, as NBC prepares for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing (which hosted the Summer Olympics eight years ago). No one is certain how much further consumers will alter their media habits, how much further television viewing will be diminished, or what new technologies will emerge during that time.
A further challenge to carrying an Olympics in Asia: the 13- to 14-hour time differences between the host cities and the east coast.
“You’d be a lot less concerned if you were in the United States or in Continental Europe,” Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research, told the New York Times. “Ninety percent of the content from Asia will be happening when we’re asleep — and when we wake up we’ll see our Twitter feeds and news stories telling us what has already happened.”