The Tokyo Olympics averaged 17.4 million viewers for Tuesday’s coverage, and NBCUniversal’s overall primetime average remained at 16.8 million viewers across all platforms, the media company announced Wednesday.
Gymnast Simone Biles returned to the competition on Tuesday morning, helping to lure viewers. Biles withdrew from events last week due to mental health concerns, but returned on Tuesday to take a bronze medal on the women’s balance beam. Biles, 24, now holds seven Olympic medals, equaling Shannon Miller for most U.S. Olympic gymnasts.
NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC, noted that TV viewership reached 16.8 million viewers Tuesday. The onset of track and field competitions also helped, and American women’s soccer and men’s basketball were two of the main attractions for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this week. The US women’s team lost to Canada 1-0 and was eliminated in the pursuit of gold. That game ended early Monday morning. The men’s win over Spain in the knockout round (quarter-final) was shown on NBC’s streaming service Peacock and ended around 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday.
The Tokyo Games recovered from low ratings during the opening ceremony, which drew approximately 17 million viewers. The opening weekend saw 19.8 million viewers for the July 25 broadcast, in which the United States men’s basketball team lost to France.
But after that, the numbers started to decline as the viewership averaged 15.5 million viewers on TV and streaming last Friday. However, viewers streamed approximately 3 billion minutes of content from the Tokyo Olympics through their platforms, including Peacock, and NBCUniversal estimates the total will surpass the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, which streamed 3.3 billion minutes.
If advertisers fail to get negotiated impressions, they receive make-goods — stock in other NBC shows. Historically, the Summer Olympics have been a huge draw for viewers. In 2016, the two-week event attracted an average of 27.5 million viewers across all NBC platforms. The 2012 London Games attracted approximately 31 million viewers and the 2008 Beijing Olympics averaged 27 million viewers.
Olympic profiles retrieved and new names discovered
If sponsors don’t get the impression from U.S. viewers, athletes can’t maximize endorsement deals, said Edward Schauder, a sports attorney at law firm Phillips Nizer.
Schauder has negotiated bargaining agreements with top athletes, including Tiger Woods and the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
However, performance can exceed ratings, and winning multiple gold medals would help overcome the low impression as companies use iconic Olympic names in the long run.
“If you win gold medals like Mark Spitz, you will always be known,” said Schauder. “You win 28 medals like Michael Phelps, you will always be known.”
This year, swimmer Caeleb Dressel, who won five gold medals in Tokyo, shone. He joined Spitz and Phelps to win at least five medals in one summer. And at $37,500 a gold medal, Dressel earned a six-figure payday. Dressel is already affiliated with top sponsors, including Toyota and Coca-Cola, and made national media rounds on Tuesday after returning to the U.S.
American swimmer Katie Ledecky also stood out, especially during the fight with Australian Ariarne Titmus in the women’s 400m freestyle. Ledecky won four medals at the Tokyo Games and now has 10 medals in her Olympic career.
American track and field star Sydney McLaughlin (gold) set a new world record in the women’s 400m hurdles on Tuesday. McLaughlin, the former Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year, defeated fellow American runner Dalilah Muhammad to finish in 51:47 seconds.
McLaughlin, 21, has an affiliation with watchmaker TAG Heuer and has a deal with clothing company New Balance.
“There will also be one or two athletes who will come forward and everyone will be talking about,” Schauder said, adding that marketers and film producers can “identify cool stories that people will find out about after the Olympics.”
Gymnast Suni Lee and golfer Xander Schauffele as two of the more exciting storylines to emerge from the ames.
After Biles withdrew from competitions, Lee, 18, stepped in and won the women’s gymnastics all-around competition, extending America’s 17-year winning streak in the event. Schauffele was involved in a final lap sensation with Slovakian Rory Sabbatini. Women’s wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock also ranked second on the Facebook list, having become the first black woman to win gold in the competition that debuted in 2004.
Also on the international front were 13-year-old females Momiji Nishiya (Japan) and Rayssa Leal (Brazil) popular at the Tokyo Games. Nishiya took gold and Leal took silver in the women’s street skateboarding competition, one of the new sports added to the Olympics. And 13-year-old Sky Brown became Britain’s youngest Olympic medalist when she took bronze in the women’s skate park final.
Also, college athletes should take advantage of the name, image and likeness when returning to colleges.
“They will be able to add Olympic medalist to their profile and be a member of an Olympic team,” Schauder said. “It’s like when Christian Laettner took advantage of being the student who played on the Dream Team.”
The US enters Wednesday and remains in first place with a total of 79 medals (25 gold). China has 70 medals (32 gold) and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) is in third place with a total of 53 medals.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics holds the U.S. broadcasting rights to all summer and winter games through 2032.