NBC’s $12B Olympics bet stumbles, thanks to millennials
NEW YORK >> Back in June, Steve Burke described what he called his Olympics “nightmare.”
“We wake up someday and the ratings are down 20 percent,” the CEO of NBC-Universal said at a conference. “If that happens, my prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come and they didn’t know it.”
He has escaped that with the Rio games this year — but not by much. Prime-time broadcast viewership has been down about 17 percent compared with the London games four years ago. And in the 18-to-49year-old age group coveted by advertisers, it’s been even worse. That audience has been 25 percent smaller.
The Summer Olympics ratings slip, the first since 2000, raises fresh doubts about what used to be a sure thing: live sports would be a huge and growing draw no matter what. That’s why NBC parent Comcast Corp. paid $12 billion for exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics through 2032. Others, including Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, 21st Century Fox Inc., Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp., have made long-term bets on football, baseball and basketball.
One issue is that many fans are getting older. The average age over the past decade of NFL and MLB viewers has increased by four and seven years, respectively, to 47 and 53, according to the blog Stratechery.
“Sports is less ingrained in the younger demographic,” said Brandon Ross, an analyst at BTIG Research. “It has been replaced by other things like video games and e-sports and Snapchat feeds.”