NBC’s $12B Olympics bet stum­bles, thanks to mil­len­ni­als

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - MONEY -

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.”

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