Was NBC's $12 billion investment in the Olympics a good idea? Based on the ratings from the Pyeongchang games, it's not clear. Viewership in the coveted 18-49 demographic is down 24% compared to the winter games in Sochi four years ago, CNN reports, though NBC points out it's only down 15% when viewers from NBC Sports Network are included. Ratings for the Opening Ceremony, which usually draws lots of viewers, were down 8.6% from Sochi. And in 2016, ratings for the summer games in Rio were down from the 2012 summer games. NBC paid more than $12 billion over two deals, one in 2011 and one in 2014, for rights to the next four Olympics.
CNN says that at the time the deals seemed like "a sure thing," since live sports were predicted to always draw strong viewership, but lately sports including NFL games have suffered from declining ratings. Even so, the last three Olympics have made money for NBC, and the network says it expects that to hold true for Pyeongchang. NBC points out that its rights deal includes platforms other than TV, and more than double the number of viewers live-streamed content from the 2018 games than the 2014 games. But even when taking those viewers into effect, total viewership is still down from four years ago. Last week, Forbes said the decline in ratings could be the reason this year's games go down in history, noting that a major ad buyer recently told the Wall Street Journal "the days of the ratings bonanzas are over."