That rule remains for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which is banning virtually all in-arena, in-stadium spectators, as a new wave of COVID-19 infections sharply climbs.
Think how NBCUniversal, which has the U.S. TV rights for the event, now handles its presentation of the games. Will lack of live, at-site video excitement affect TV viewership?
Look at some of the recent history to gain insight. A year ago, major sports were hit with massive 20% or more viewership declines in August/September, in part because of the lack of in-arena/in-stadium video-positive fan excitement. Some analysts said the result was some TV sports looked like teams were playing exhibition games.
For sure, the absence of fans wasn’t the only issue. There was massive schedule conflicts. Virtually all U.S. major sports were being aired against each other during this period. The only sport relatively unaffected -- The NFL -- which was just starting its season.
The positive here for the Olympics -- it’s an every-other year event, alternating summer and winter events. The event not only brings big time competition across many lesser-screened TV sports, but it offers spectacle, especially with the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as in-stadium pageantry.
Comparative viewing data looks like this: In 2016, for the Rio Summer Olympics, the game average 27.5 million Nielsen measured viewers on NBC TV networks, down 9% from the London Summer Games in 2012.
The Tokyo games, due to be held last year in the late July/August period, was delayed until this year because of the pandemic. Now, a year later, there are strong vaccines available. But not as many in Japan, which has had a slow rollout. Thus, a dangerous level of Covid infections remain.
Expect NBCU to fall back a bit -- like other networks did a year ago -- adding in its video production digital video of fans at arenas/stadiums, as well all those faux ambient audio sounds of spectators.
There is another factor to consider. All kinds of athletes -- NBA, Major League Baseball, and NFL players -- yielded lower intensity levels when it came to performances. A lack of fans may be a major cause.
Should we expect that at the Olympics as well? If so, will viewers at home tune out?