While the Olympics may often appear to bring its own audience, and promotion for the event may seem inescapable, television ratings have shown a drop in viewership from last year.

The breakdown of the ratings

Around 19.5 million viewers tuned into the NBC airing of the Rio Olympics this year, which had aired between the hours of 8pm and 11pm. This is an approximate 32 percent drop from the viewership of the London Olympics in 2012. Reportedly, there is also an expected drop in the event’s key demographic, which is comprised of 18 to 49 year olds.

According to reports, a 5.5 Nielson rating for this demographic was recorded for this viewing for the aforementioned demographic, as opposed to an 8.8 viewing four years ago. That said, the comparisons only concern the most recently past and current Summer Olympics, as the viewership for the Rio Olympics is still said to be increased compared to the Winter Olympics, which were hosted in 2014 at Sochi, Russia.

The reason is a change in platform

However, this does not necessarily mean that the Olympics are not being watched. The most commonly cited reason for the drop in viewership is not from a lack of interest in the event, according to sources, but from a change in medium for viewership. As online streaming is becoming a more dominant platform and alternative to traditional viewing means, television ratings have been struggling to keep up. Reportedly, it may be too early to tell, but it is believed that online ratings for the Rio Olympics have been “up considerably.”

Online venues have grown increasingly common for sporting events in this past year alone.

Both YouTube and Facebook have announced plans to showcase online streaming for e-sports and soccer tournaments, respectively. At the time, both moves were considered a cornerstone in digital media's growing presence in the world of sports. However, there is some speculation that a drop in viewers could come from a more genuine lack of viewers. Some sources speculate that competition between Americans Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps helped draw in viewers for the Rio Olympics.

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