Tokyo Olympics win weekly ratings race with weak showing

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland runs with the ball.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland during the Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Dallas Cowboys.
(David Richard / Associated Press)

Viewership for the second and final full week of NBC’s prime-time coverage of the Tokyo Olympics dropped 46.5% from the same period for the 2016 Rio Games, but still drew the largest audiences for the week.

NBC averaged 10.62 million viewers for its 22 hours of prime-time programming between Aug. 2 and Sunday, which consisted of 21½ hours of Olympics programming and the premiere of the game show “Family Game Night,” according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

The week’s highest ratings were on Tuesday, when an average of 14.309 million viewers watched coverage featuring American gymnast Simone Biles winning the bronze medal in the balance beam and gold medal runs by Americans Sydney McLaughlin and Athing Mu.


Sunday’s closing ceremony averaged 8.818 million viewers, sixth for the week, 48.2% less than the 17.03 million average for the 2016 closing ceremony.

USA Network, which featured Olympic programming, drew the second-largest prime-time cable audience for the second consecutive week, averaging 1.161 million viewers.

Delays, COVID-19, streaming competition and unforeseen circumstances drive down average prime time TV viewership to 15.5 million.

Aug. 9, 2021

The week’s top-ranked non-Olympics prime-time program was Fox’s coverage of Thursday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, with an average of 7.311 million viewers watching the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 16-3 in a game the Cowboys led 3-0 at halftime.

Viewership was up 36.8% from when the game was last played, with NBC’s coverage of the Denver Broncos’ 14-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 1, 2019, averaging 5.346 million viewers, 13th for its week. The NFL canceled all preseason games in 2020 in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

CBS finished a distant second for the week, averaging 2.29 million viewers, followed among the major English-language broadcast networks by Fox, averaging 2.08 million; ABC, 1.9 million; and The CW, 430,000.

Four episodes of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” topped the week’s prime-time cable programs, led by the Wednesday episode, which averaged 3.069 million viewers, 22nd for the week.


Fox News Channel was first among cable networks for the fifth consecutive week, averaging 2.062 million viewers.

MSNBC was third, averaging 1.041 million viewers. CNN was eighth, averaging 680,000, also trailing HGTV (980,000), TLC (910,000), Hallmark Channel (763,000) and History (713,000).

“Manifest” topped the list of the most-streamed programs for the fourth consecutive week, with viewers watching 1.811 billion minutes of its 29 episodes between July 5 and July 11, 3.1% less than the 1.869 billion minutes watched the previous week. The Netflix romantic drama “Virgin River” was second with 1.449 billion minutes of its 30 episodes.