Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Draws Lowest Ratings in Nearly 30 Years

According to preliminary figures, this year's opening ceremony average about 17 million viewers, marking the lowest ratings since the 992 Barcelona Games.

Tokyo Summer Games Opening Ceremony

Image via Getty/Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times

Tokyo Summer Games Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics was far from ratings success.

According to preliminary figures, the four-hour televised event drew about 17 million viewers Friday, marking the lowest ratings since the 1992 Barcelona games. The Wrap reports viewership was also down about 36 percent from the 2016 Olympics opener in Rio, which attracted 26.5 million viewers. For comparison, the 2012 summer olympics garnered the highest ratings on record, with more than 40 million Americans tuning in. 

Though this year’s opening ceremony was considered a ratings flop, NBC noted that it dominated Friday night primetime, and marked the second-most watched standalone telecast over the past year, following Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s bombshell CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey.

NBC also noted that streams for the 2020 opener on and the NBC Sports app increased by 76 percent from the 2018 winter games in PyeongChang and 72 percent from 2016. 

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The ratings drop isn’t exactly shocking. In the weeks leading up to the summer games kickoff, many experts predicted a significant decline in viewership, pointing to the 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and the U.S. east coast as well as the increasing number of households who have ditched cable for streaming services.

“This is probably going to be the lowest-rated summer Olympics of all time,” media consultant Patrick Crakes told CNN. “They can’t avoid the increased media fractionalization that’s enabling everyone to spend more time with all sorts of content.”

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