Zeta Global, a marketing research firm, conducted a poll of Americans last week about the Olympics. They found that most Americans aren’t interested in the games this year.

The company discovered that more than 60% of Americans couldn’t express excitement or interest about the summer games and that at least 45% of Americans said they were not looking forward to them in any capacity. It was able to predict that this year’s Olympics would be the least-watched in 21st-century history.

Another research group, Ipsos conducted polling about Olympics enthusiasm by party affiliation. It found that only 29% of Republicans were interested in watching the games compared to 39% for Democrats.The survey also revealed that only 32% of Americans believe that Olympic athletes should have the right to protest, including by kneeling or carrying messages on their uniforms. Ipsos’ survey found that most Americans feel proud to be American if they see positive performances from U.S. athletes.

So what happens when the athletes indicate that they aren’t proud to be Americans, and defy their fellow citizens’ wishes for a politics-free international sporting event, as the U.S. Women’s Soccer team did when they knelt in support of Black Lives Matter? Or as hammer-thrower Gwen Berry did when she turned her back on the American flag during the anthem?Zeta’s prediction of a ratings free-fall comes true.As the games open Friday, Olympics ratings coverage isn’t focusing on whether viewership numbers will be bad but, rather, just how bad.The New York Post reports some experts believe it could drop to just 17 million — a disastrous figure compared to the 2012 London Olympics that averaged 30 million viewers and the poorly-rated 2016 Rio games that attracted 27 million.

The Hollywood Reporter asked in a headline, “Tokyo Olympics: How Far Will NBC’s TV Ratings Fall?”
The story goes on to explore cable cord-cutting as the primary factor that could make for a tough year for NBC, the primary broadcaster of the games. Other outlets, like Bloomberg, have focused on Covid and a lack of fans in the stands as the reason fewer families will be gathering to watch athletes bring home the gold. But that seems like willful disregarding of evidence that audiences feel a general lack of enthusiasm for the competitions this year. And the competitors.Based on Ipsos and Zeta’s research, Outkick’s popular founder Clay Travis clearly spoke for many when he said, “It’s intriguing to see the U.S. women kneel before the game began. There’s going to be a lot of political analysis going on as it pertains to the Olympics this year. It’s going to be harder to enjoy, it’s going to be way more political than it has been in the past, and I think that is going to hurt the viewership.”

It’s particularly bad news for NBC as it is the network hoping to use the Olympics to draw subscribers to its new streaming platform, Peacock.
As LightShed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield told the Post, “This is certainly not going to be the Olympics NBC was hoping for.”


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