The Olympics, it’s meant to be a grandiose world-wide event, incorporating athletes from all of the major nations to come and compete for their country’s honor, it’s a Greek competition gone haywire.
It’s a pretty simple concept and for decades people have been eating it up. Divided into the Summer and less celebrated Winter games, it’s pretty indisputable that the Olympics has fallen into a slump. The 2022 Olympics proves it, only raking in about 11.4 million viewers, an all-time low for the event’s televised history. “I always say I’m going to watch them, then I never do,” freshman Joe O’Leary said.
This is the case for a variety of reasons, the most obvious of which being that it’s the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics historically have not done as well as the Summer games, especially in places like the United States. Most U.S. sports nuts aren’t at the edge of their seats waiting to see who wins the curling finals. That’s not to say these sports are decidedly bad or not worth televising, they’re just not as easily understandable as the summer sports such as basketball or track or swimming.
The more pressing issue is the location and circumstances around the location. The Winter Olympics this year took place in Beijing. In case you’ve missed the news, China isn’t exactly the most popular of countries right now.
The last reason, and one that is often overlooked, is streaming rights. In 2011 NBC bought the exclusive broadcasting rights to broadcast the Olympic Games. In the past this wasn’t a huge issue, as people had some form of cable, but as the years went on it became easier to just own one streaming service like Netflix over paying a large fee a month for a bunch of channels you weren’t going to watch anyways. Streaming has become the exact thing it sought to destroy, splintering television across a variety of different services, almost all of which do not have sports.
Well, Hulu has sports, but if you wanted to watch, say, the Olympic Games, you would have to add on more to your subscription. ESPN+, the streaming platform in which people are supposed to go for sports isn’t associated with NBC, so it has no live coverage. You could get the streaming service Peacock, but that comes with the risk forgetting you subscribed to it. Alternatively, a TV service like YouTube TV could do the trick, but that’s $50-$80 a month depending on what you go with.
For many it’s just too much a hassle, people can’t just flip to their local NBC station anymore. The only reason a person with good internet access would have cable (or streamed cable alternatives) is to watch sports.
The politics, virus, and ease of access combined with an overall lack of excitement for the Olympics (The United States came in fifth, after all) has led to the lowest American numbers the Olympics has seen, leading many Americans to wonder “why watch at all?”