Olympic Impact on TV

OMD Olympics

The London 2012 Olympic Games came to a climatic conclusion on Sunday night with 26 million people tuning into BBC1 for the handing over of the flag to Rio de Janeiro. The closing ceremony was viewed live by 45% of the UK population, just 2.7 million less than Danny Boyle’s much lauded opener.

Peak Time Event Viewers
2150 Opening Ceremony 28.7 Million
2135 Closing Ceremony 26.0 Million

As expected, the UK viewing public have embraced the games, with GB medal wins at the athletics track driving the highest audience volumes.  Mo Farrah’s 10,000m gold medal reached 15.9 million individuals on BBC1 making him the most watched British male athlete of London 2012.  On the same night, Jessica Ennis’ gold medal in the heptathlon peaked at 15.1 million during her 800m dash to victory, making her the most watched British female athlete of the games.

As predicted, the highest viewed individual event was the 100m final which reached a live audience of 19.3m achieving a 65% share for the BBC. 14.9m viewers saw Usain take his second gold in the 200m, the fourth most watched event of London 2012.

BBC1 took a 34.8% share of TV viewing for the 16 days. Combining this with their 24 dedicated digital channels, 39.6% of all TV watched across the period was to the Olympic Games. This is unsurprising as 2,500 hours of the games were broadcasted across these channels.  Share of viewing for the Olympic period was up 81.3% in comparison to the first three weeks of July (the week prior to the games discounted due to Olympic themed programming in that week).

Rank Athlete Event Viewers Peak Time Game Day
1 Usain Bolt Athletics Men’s 100m Final 19.3 million 2150 Day 9
2 Mo Farrah Athletics Men’s 10,000m Final 15.9 million 2145 Day 8
3 Jessica Ennis Athletics Women’s Heptathlon 800m 15.1 Million 2100 Day 8
4 Usain Bolt Athletics Men’s 200m Final 14.9 million 2100 Day 13
5 Mo Farrah Athletics Men’s 5000m Final 12.5 million 1955 Day 15

So, what impact did this have on commercial viewing?

The Olympics on the BBC had a severe impact on commercial programming. Compared to the same period the previous year, we saw the biggest hit taken on ITV1, which saw a -39% change in share of impacts to 8.9%. Channel Five saw its share of impacts drop 22.7%, while Channel 4 saw impacts drop 28.6%.

  2011 Olympics Difference
Channel 28th-16th August 28th-16th August  
BBC 1 (plus HD & Digital Olympic Channels) 20.6% 39.6% 92.2%
BBC 2 6.3% 6.0% -4.8%
ITV1 14.6% 8.9% -39.0%
C4 6.3% 4.5% -28.6%
C5 4.4% 3.4% -22.7%
MCH 47.8% 37.6% -21.3%
Total 100.0% 100.0% N/A

Although the Olympics monopolised TV viewing, habitual TV shows still managed to pull in the audiences. Emmerdale saw an 11% change in share of viewing, dropping from 41% to 32%. Coronation Street saw a 16% change in share of viewing dropping from 35% to 28%. Both of these declines in share are significantly less than ITV1’s total drop for the period.

The Olympics has meant that we have identified two major trends.

1) Major track events as well as events where Great Britain has strong medal chances will attract the biggest audiences.

2) Commercial viewing declined, however people still tuned in to commercial programming for top shows.

With Channel 4 hosting the Paralympics at the end of the month and the high level of demand for tickets, we will expect to see these trends continue. However, we don’t believe the declines in commercial stations will be as extreme.

The Olympics is over… what happens next?

Over the coming months it is in the best interest of commercial TV to minimise the overspill effect on viewing that the BBC has created after the games. With 7% of the UK population watching the games at any one time on BBC1 (excluding the opening and closing ceremonies), we will expect to see the BBC roll out a retention strategy to keep as many viewers as possible.  We will see appointment to view, event  programming roll out across commercial TV over the next few months as they fight to win back the public’s eye with shows such as X Factor, Celebrity Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. As well as shows that command a strong following, we are going to see an influx of newly commissioned programmes such as Mrs Biggs in September and Home Front in October on ITV1. With these in mind, we can expect commercial TV to take viewing back from the BBC.


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