The Olympic flame has been extinguished in Rio, marking the end of the 2016 Summer Games, and also the end of an era. NBC’s TV ratings were down by roughly 18% — with a 14.4 household rating and 25.4 million viewers — compared to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and saw the lowest viewership of its closing ceremony since 19721.
This drop in TV ratings likely stems from the boom in online video, and declining linear TV viewership (especially among millennial audiences), as viewers migrate to digital streaming platforms and mobile devices to consume content when and where they want it. The London Games may prove to be the high water mark for Olympics TV viewership.
Pixability powered its technology to examine how Olympic sponsor and non-sponsor brands performed on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
The 11 Olympics sponsors generated more than 140M views in August, more than double their pre-Olympics levels.
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Both sponsor and non-sponsor brands were investing in YouTube slightly more than average in the months leading up to the Olympics. Once the Olympics began in August, sponsor brands spent massively, generating 2.5X more views than average, while non-sponsor brands also increased their spend by roughly 50% more than average.

Sponsor brands consistently out-performed non-sponsor brands in engagements, suggesting that viewers reacted favorably to Olympics-themed content.
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On Facebook, brand sponsors dominated the Olympics conversation — generating more than 600K interactions (sum of likes, posts, comments, or shares) throughout the Games. Omega was the most-talked about brand, with 28% of the total interactions, followed by a tie between GE and Visa, each earning 17% of interactions.
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While all age groups were discussing the Olympics, the hard-to-reach 18-34 demographic generated more than 50% of interactions, and close to 60% of the 3M+ Olympics interactions came from women.
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Of the most popular athletes on Facebook, Michael Phelps received 27% of audience interactions, while Andy Murray received 14% — largely due to his correction of a BBC commentator on the Williams sisters’ gold medals — and Simone Biles earned 12% of audience interactions.
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Throughout the Olympics, mentions of official sponsors on Instagram grew at a much higher rate than non-sponsor brands.
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With TV viewership of the Olympics continuing to decline, NBC needs to innovate if it’s going to capture more eyeballs and secure ad revenue. NBC has already partnered with Twitter to livestream 10 NFL games this season — based on the performance of this livestream deal, you may be watching the 2020 Olympics livestreamed via social video platforms instead of on TV.
This data was originally featured in Adweek.
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1. Vulture, “Why Were the Rio Olympics Ratings So Bad?” August 22, 2016.?