Canadian ambivalence about Beijing 2022 appears to be reflected in Games TV viewership, with CBC posting sharply lower initial ratings than previous Winter Olympics and even the Tokyo Games last summer. .
According to figures provided to The Globe and Mail by CBC on Friday, CBC primetime viewership for the first six days of events in Beijing is down 22% from Tokyo and 48% from the Games. winter of Pyeongchang.
After six days of events, Beijing draws an average audience of just 1,055,500 on CBC between 7 p.m. ET and midnight, not including last Friday’s show featuring the opening ceremony. This compares to an average of 1.29 million viewers for the first six days of Games events last summer, and an average of 1.94 million for the same period in Pyeongchang.
An ad buyer told the Globe that ratings were about 25% lower than projections CBC’s sales department provided to the industry ahead of the Games, raising the possibility that the public broadcaster may have to compensate marketers for failing to meet their expectations. public.
CBC’s drop in viewership mirrors a sharp decline in the US, where NBC saw its prime-time audience fall from around 23 million for the Pyeongchang Games to 12.3 million for Beijing, a decline about 46%.
NBC on track for record ratings for Beijing Olympics
And the number of viewers for many top events in Canada is even higher.
Direct comparisons with previous Olympics are difficult, as some events in Beijing may be reduced in viewership by taking place at different times than in Pyeongchang.
Yet in 2018, 3.4 million viewers watched CBC coverage of Max Parrot and Mark McMorris winning Canada’s first medals, silver and bronze, in the men’s snowboard slopestyle competition at 9:28 p.m. ( ET) on Day 1 of the Pyeongchang Games. This year, when these two runners took gold and bronze in the same event in Beijing, 1.2 million people were watching CBC at 12:29 a.m. (ET), a drop of 65%.
CBC also said the most-watched moment from Day 2 of Pyeongchang reached 3.6 million viewers, who tuned in to Canada’s gold medal victory in the figure skating team event, at 9:57 p.m. (HEY). The most-watched moment of Day 2 in Beijing occurred when 1.5 million viewers tuned in to the pairs program of the team figure skating event at 9:06 p.m. ET.
A number of public opinion polls in the run-up to Beijing 2022 have suggested that Canadians may be reluctant to watch the Games due to China’s alleged human rights abuses as well as its treatment. booked Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
In December, Canada, Britain, the United States and other countries declared a diplomatic boycott of the Games.
But Adam Seaborn, director of media sales and operations at Kingstar Media, a media buying and planning agency, suggested the difficult political backdrop may just be a factor depressing viewership. He noted that CBC has sent few reporters to Beijing and that all game-by-game hosts, analysts and commentators are calling the Games from remote studios in Canada.
Additionally, CBC did not have access to China to produce the kind of stories highlighting the host country’s culture, history and geography that typically add flavor and a different pace to two weeks of television coverage.
“Does this detract from the storytelling? You don’t have people on the ground saying, “Wow, that’s amazing, the Olympic Village! and putting it on Instagram and Twitter, to help connect,” Seaborn noted. “So all of those things together, I think, are hurting him.”
He said CBC had told its customers it expected an average prime-time audience of 1.42 million. “At the moment, in my eyes, they are underdelivered,” he said.
Still, he noted with approval that CBC’s Olympic broadcasts gave him the highest-rated non-primetime news show every night. “They meet in the ballpark of a Toronto Maple Leafs game every night.”
Other observers have suggested Olympic fatigue could take its toll, with the Beijing Games only taking place six months after Tokyo. The lack of large crowds dampens the viewing experience. And conventional sports fans still have to focus on the NHL and NBA regular season, as well as this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Chris Wilson, executive director of CBC Sports & Olympics, suggested the precipitous downfall of the 2018 Winter Games could be attributed to the changed television landscape. “To be honest, we don’t care too much about comparisons with Pyeongchang,” he said in an interview from Beijing. “It’s just a radically different atmosphere.”
Figures from the Numeris rating service, provided to the Globe by CBC, indicate that viewing in the mainstream Canadian television landscape has fallen by around 18% since the Pyeongchang Games, and around 10% since the Tokyo Games. .
Wilson noted that CBC has seen tremendous growth in its online service Gem, which allows Canadian viewers to watch any Olympic event live or on demand. In a statement, CBC said the number of hours watched during the first three days of the Beijing Games increased by 48% compared to the same period for Tokyo.
Wilson insisted that the Beijing prime-time viewership was heartening to see. “It’s for five o’clock, we have this large group of loyal and dedicated Olympic fans who come and stay with him late in the evening and early in the morning. It’s certainly important for us and for our partners.
And he insisted that CBC would be able to deliver all the audiences it promised its Olympic clients, noting that some of its biggest events, like men’s and women’s hockey, had yet to have place. “We are convinced of it.”
He added that CBC was also pleased with the growth of its Olympics-focused social media activity. “Our Tiktok account has been a resounding success,” he said. “We’ve had a few days that have been over two million video views. Obviously this is from a group that may not be a regular CBC Sports affiliate, so I think that’s also a very good story for us.
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