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July 26, 2021 - The 2008 Beijing Olympics in China drew the largest television audience in Olympic Games history, with 4.7 billion people globally, or roughly two out of every three people on the planet.
NBC’s broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony on July 23 drew 17 million U.S. viewers across all platforms, the smallest American television audience for the event in the past 33 years, according to preliminary data from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.
Viewing figures were down about 36% from the opening ceremony in Rio in 2016, which attracted approximately 26.5 million people.
In 2011, Comcast, which acquired a majority stake in NBCUniversal, agreed to a $4.38 billion deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for U.S. broadcast rights through Tokyo 2020 -- the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history.
In 2014, NBCUniversal paid $7.65 billion to the IOC to extend its U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics through to 2032.
Broadcast rights are the IOC’s most valuable revenue stream and have surged from $898 million in 1996 to $2.87 billion for the Rio Games in 2016. The IOC projected revenue of around $3.06 billion from broadcasting rights for Tokyo 2020.
Like the other Olympic events this year, the opening ceremony took place inside a mostly empty venue after Olympics organizers banned most spectators due to rising Covid-19 cases in Tokyo.