The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are in the books and, if you listen to the general consensus in some circles, they were a total bust for networks. Ratings were down—way down—and that’s prompting many to conclude viewers were disinterested for a variety of reasons.
That’s a tidy narrative but it’s overlooking one big part of the story: the record amount of streaming the Olympic Games in Beijing experienced. Far from being a bust for networks, the 2022 Games dramatically highlight the seismic shift from cable to streaming that’s underway worldwide.
Network TV numbers coming up short
Typically, the Olympics are a ratings bonanza for rightsholder networks—NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada. And while ratings have been trending down for the last several summer and winter games, the TV numbers look particularly dismal for the 2022 Games in Beijing.
In the U.S., Nielsen reported 9.8 million viewers tuned in to watch NBC’s primetime coverage of the opening ceremony in Beijing. That’s a far cry from the 22 million who tuned in to watch the opening ceremony for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, which to this point was the least-watched Olympics ever. The rebroadcast suffered equally poor ratings, down 61.4% from 2018’s rebroadcast.
In Canada, the numbers don’t look any better. According to the Globe and Mail, CBC’s primetime viewership for the first six days of the Games is down 22% from the 2020 Tokyo Games, and down 48% from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Part way through the Games, even the IOC admitted that TV ratings globally were down 50% from PyeongChang. Discovery Streaming noted: “Eight times more viewers are streaming Olympic content compared to the same period for Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 with total new paid subscribers to Discovery’s streaming services already surpassing 2018 with a week of competition still to go.”
Streaming takes the gold medal
While traditional TV viewership is experiencing historic lows across the board both north and south of the border, streaming is enjoying record highs.
In the U.S., viewers spent 190 million minutes streaming the opening ceremonies, according to numbers released by NBC. That’s a record high for both the Summer and Winter Games.
Through the first few days of the Games, more than 1 billion streaming minutes had already been watched by viewers on NBC’s digital platforms.
In Canada, viewers can stream the Games on a variety of digital platforms, including CBC’s Gem app, Sportsnet Now, and even Tiktok. According to CBC, the number of streaming hours on the Gem app alone was up 48% through the first three days of the Games. As well, the network racked up more than two million video views on Tiktok in the first few days of the Games.
After the Games ended, multiple streaming services reported record performances.
Convenience and customization for the win
It’s not hard to see why more and more viewers are turning to streaming options over traditional TV when it comes to watching the Olympics. Not only are there plenty of options available, from free streaming options to paid streaming subscription services, but convenience and customization are also big factors.
With replays for most events available on-demand, viewers can stream what they want to watch when they want to watch it. Streaming options are also available across a wide range of devices—from smartphones to smart TVs to tablets—giving viewers even more control over how and where they watch their favorite events. Additionally, with streaming, viewers can often find and watch events—or segments of events—that might not be broadcast on TV.
Infrastructure is key
The 2022 Games aren’t just breaking streaming records. They’re also the highest resolution Games in history, with NBC even broadcasting a variety of events in 8K VR.
For integrators and electrical contractors who are starting to add home networking to their menu of services, this is a reminder of how critical structured wiring is—not only to future-proof homes for the needs of tomorrow, but also to make them compatible with the consumer demands of today.
FTTP is only the beginning. Streaming live content like the Olympics in high-resolution or ultra high-resolution requires reliable high-bandwidth connections throughout the home.
Wired ethernet wall plates should be installed in several rooms on multiple floors, allowing devices like media players and smart TVs to be directly connected to the home’s fiber optic line. As well, WiFi-transparent media panels are a simple way to house networking equipment in a central and easily accessible location that minimizes signal loss.