Winter Olympics Wipeout: A Couple Of Theories

Prime-time viewership for NBCU’s Winter Olympics cratered, and the TV Blog has a couple of theories why.

1. The fragmentation of television has finally hit this once-reliable tentpole event.

The following has been oft-repeated in the last 10 years or more, and its logic (backed up by fact) is undeniable: People have so much video content to watch that they are sifting through a thousand other things with which to spend their time. 

In this environment, the Olympics is just another thing a person can choose to watch -- or not. 

The numbers being reported elsewhere by MediaPost -- including a 42% decline in average prime-time viewership across the various NBCU platforms for the just-concluded Winter Olympics vs. the Winter Games in 2018 -- suggest that many people now consider these once-special telecasts to be on par with -- and not more special than -- everything else.



It is also practically a requirement in a discussion like this to acknowledge that the temptations presented by other TV choices are just one part of today’s media distractions.

The others include addictive social media, video games (a huge culprit), the rapidly expanding world of podcasts, and heaven knows what else.

2. The Olympic events themselves - Or: Curling? Really?

This consideration is a little hard to pin down, so please bear with me. In years past, when the Olympics attracted bigger audiences, I often wondered why so many Americans suddenly become interested every four years in sports on snow and ice in which they have no personal experience, and certainly do not follow like they follow the NFL or NBA.

The answer I came up with was pretty simple: Some of these sports are just too darned thrilling to pass up, and others are too beautiful.

The latter category is basically a reference to figure skating. Like the gymnastics competitions in the warm-weather Summer Games, the skill and artistry of the Olympic skaters is astonishing to behold and possibly the top attraction of these Games every four years.

Never mind that this year’s figure skating went south with the dramatic finish to the women’s competition. That cannot be said to have driven away viewers because it happened near the conclusion of the games. Plus, it was riveting television.

And in the former category of thrilling events, there is skiing and in second place, bobsleds and luges. But where the skiing events are concerned, are there too many of them?

This might not be entirely accurate, but if memory serves, there used to be fewer of them. Now this category includes a number of “newer” snow events, including various categories of snowboarding.

In my mind’s eye, there was downhill skiing, slalom skiing and those spectacular ski jumps. These, along with the bobsleds and luges careening down those icy slides, were and still are astonishing to behold. 

But does the time devoted to the other snow sports take airtime away from these staple events and diminish their importance?

Perhaps in the same manner that too much TV is diminishing the importance of the Olympics generally, maybe the piling on of additional sports is diluting and fragmenting the Olympics too.

As for curling and the airtime it has received in recent Winter Games, I can only roll my eyes and wonder why.

3. China and the state of the Olympics themselves.

This is also a little difficult to pin down, but anecdotally, I have heard from people that these are subjects that had them skipping the Olympics this year.

China’s authoritarianism and its adoption of an increasingly adversarial strategy in its dealings with America and the West are of great concern to many Americans -- so much so that they simply felt they couldn’t stomach an Olympics coming from the Chinese capital of Beijing.

In addition, China and its leader Xi Jinping give off a dour vibe that flies in the face of Americans, who are instinctively fun-loving when it comes to sports -- including Olympics. In short, China’s a buzzkill.

The Games themselves seem increasingly corporate too. Amateur standing is a thing of the past. The whole thing now strikes many people as just another over-hyped hustle.

1 comment about "Winter Olympics Wipeout: A Couple Of Theories".
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  1. Michael Medina from Medina Communications Corp, February 24, 2022 at 8:34 a.m.

    Adam, "A little difficult to pin down"? Bias much for China Adam? Not once do you mention the enslavement, tourture, and genocide of the million plus Uyghuris in China.  Nor do you mention China's intursion into our Country.  I didn't watch due to China's worldwide corruption.  And you call yourself a journalist.

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