After an extra year’s wait, Tokyo Olympics 2020 finally kicked off on July 23. One of the greatest sporting events on the planet had to make drastic changes due to the Covid-19 as they only allowed 1000 supporters inside the stadium for the opening ceremony. The lack of fan support has been felt outside Japan as well, American TV Broadcaster, NBC suffered a significant drop in viewership during the opening ceremony on Friday.
The opening ceremony staged at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo was no less than amazing, showcasing Japanese history, art and culture, amongst others. But it lacked the usual and vital flavour of the fans inside the stadium. The Japanese Government in consultation with the organising committee had earlier taken the decision to stage the Games without fans being allowed to attend the live events in person.
According to the figures released, it recorded just 16.7 million viewers. This figure is the lowest U.S. television viewership for the event in the last 33 years. Including the channel’s streaming platform, the figure just reached 17 million viewers. But the streaming audience reflected a 72 per cent hike from the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
With Tokyo being 13 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, NBC for the first time broadcasted the ceremony live at seven in the morning. Thus, drastic time differences could be a major reason for such a massive drop in viewership. Going by numbers, Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony suffered a 37% drop in Rio and 59% in London.
In its primetime coverage, NBC acknowledged the pandemic and its toll while presenting the Olympics as a positive event. NBC News’ co-anchor of ‘Today’ morning show, Savannah Guthrie expressed her views on this situation and said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder. There’s nothing like an opening ceremony to really get you excited for the Olympic Games.”
This came up as a major shock for the company considering their extremely high expectations after NBC’s Chief Executive Jeff Shell spoke highly about the Olympics earlier in June. He expected the Tokyo Games to be the most profitable Olympics in NBC’s history. The company had roped in more than 120 advertising brands and was on track to beat the $1.2 billion in revenue set in Rio five years ago.
Not just the fans but the list of the other major absentees was also long. The said list included former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had spoken his discontent towards the staging of the games in Tokyo. The main sponsor Toyota also withdrew itself from TV commercials during the Games. The President of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda also skipped the opening ceremony, fearing the backlash from residents of the country and as a result harming his brand’s image and reputation.