Brands overweighing on TV are being left in the dust as TV ratings from Rio indicate


The Olympics’ poor TV ratings published this week show us that mobile is not transforming how we view sports and live events. It already has.

Prime-time TV ratings during Rio in 2016 fell short of expectations, coming in behind the 2012 London Games, exposing the definitive truth about the changing media landscape.

The first two weeks of the Olympics showed a 14% drop in viewers, revealing further proof that brands can no longer rely primarily on TV to drive influence. Viewing behavior has changed dramatically in the past four years and advertisers must adapt to the new landscape, as we anticipate this trend to continue shifting in favor of mobile.

Rio’s TV ratings far lower than London

NBC’s gargantuan Olympics broadcast consisted of over 6,800 hours of programming across 11 NBC Universal linear networks. Ultimately, though, prime-time viewership ratings came in far behind the 2012 Summer Games in London. Despite the high expectations voiced prior to the Games, NBC’s TV ratings dropped a staggering 17% from the London Games with the closing ceremony coming in at 31% drop. (NBC Universal, 2016 Rio Olympics Viewership Data)

Advertisers weren’t shy throwing dollars at the event either. In total, advertisers spent $1.23 billion during this year’s Olympics, making it the largest spend in Olympics history. NBC had told advertisers to expect a TV household rating in the high teens, similar to London. However, Rio averaged only a household rating <15 as compared to London at >17. (NBC Universal, 2016 Rio Olympics Viewership Data)

The shift away from TV comes as no surprise

The concept of a ‘live’ event does not equate to ‘live on TV’ anymore. With consumers viewing content on mobile platforms including Snapchat, Twitter, Periscope and Facebook the concept of ‘live’ extends far beyond TV. While the drop in TV ratings may be shocking for some, it certainly is not surprising for us. We have witnessed a complete shift in TV viewing behavior in just the past five years. Since 2011, traditional TV viewing time has dropped by 11-39% in age groups from 18-49 (see chart). Across all age groups, viewers are moving toward digital devices to stream content.


Nielsen TV view data, Q1 2016, US

As a result of this shift, the media landscape has transformed; away from a TV-takes-all-approach into a multi-channel approach that holistically incorporates mobile, digital and TV.

NBC was still winning with livestreaming

Despite the decline in TV viewership, NBC saw big wins on mobile and desktop livestreaming. Viewers live-streamed more than 2 billion minutes of coverage, which is more than London and Sochi combined at 1.24 billion. (NBC Universal, 2016 Rio Olympics Viewership Data)

Rio thus represents a monumental shift in event viewing with fans gravitating toward digital devices, both mobile and desktop. Consumers are refusing to conform to TV viewing standards. To avoid losing out on viewers, brands need to adapt.

Brands need to plan for the new ‘live’

Advertisers need to restructure media plans around live events – but not only there – to highlight the influence of digital streaming on mobile devices. Sports brands and media networks are beginning to understand the impact of mobile in the media landscape. For example, NBC secured a landmark partnership with Snapchat to make exclusive Olympic content available on the platform. Similarly, fans, and advertisers, are eagerly awaiting the NFL’s live streaming partnership with Twitter.

By 2020, mobile will be the new TV.

Currently, a quarter of total media viewing time is spent on mobile devices yet advertisers are allocating just one-eight of their media planning budgets to mobile. Brands that are have not yet embraced this shift in their media plans will hopefully have woken up now following the Olympics’ numbers.

This blog post was written by Jeremy Epstein, Mobile Strategist at Fetch New York.