The Tokyo Olympics has been described as the largest media event in history. NBC reported that 150 million people in the United States watched some of the Olympics coverage, although that was down on recent years. In Europe the number was estimated at over 370 million. More people viewed online than ever, but most people will have watched it on television.

NBC reported that its prime time coverage averaged 15.6 million viewers. That was considerably down on the average of 27.5 million viewers for the games in Rio de Janiero.

There were 4.4 billion minutes of online video coverage delivered on the NBCOlympics web site, with a further 1.2 billion minutes across social media.

In total, over 120 billion minutes of Olympics coverage were viewed across NBCUniversal platforms, the vast majority of them on television, which is equivalent to 330 million Americans watching more than six hours each.

NBC coverage of the opening ceremony had the lowest audience for the event in over three decades, down to 16.7 million viewers, from 26.5 million for the opening of the games in Rio in 2016 and 40.7 million for London in 2012.

Total reach was an estimated 150 million viewers in the United States, which was down from nearly 200 million for Rio and 217 million for London.

Tokyo 2020

In Europe, Discovery reported that over 370 million people watched the Olympics across television and online services. Over 175 million of them watched the Discovery coverage, while almost 200 million more watched through partner broadcasters, including 45 free-to-air national broadcasters throughout Europe.

Discovery presented the Olympics in 50 markets in Europe, with 11 national productions and coverage in 19 languages.

Discovery reported that it delivered 1.3 billion minutes of Olympics programming across its online platforms, led by the discovery+ and Eurosport subscription services.

More than 47 million unique visitors followed the coverage on the free Eurosport web site during the 17-day period of the Olympics.

The BBC reported that a total of 36.4 million people watched some of the events from Tokyo 2020 on television. The most viewed events were the men’s and women’s 100 metre finals, watched by 5 million and 4.5 million respectively. The opening ceremony was watched by just 2.3 million viewers in the United Kingdom and did not make the top 20 programmes shown on the BBC that week.

In Australia, more than 20 million people watched some of the coverage on the Seven Network. The opening ceremony was the most watched programme of the year, with 3.85 million viewers, including those watching time-shifted or on-demand. The most watched event was the men’s 100 metres final, watched by 5.36 million.

There were 4.7 billion minutes delivered on the 7plus online service, which saw registered users increase by 2.8 million to 9.2 million over the course of the event. On 25 July, 7plus delivered a record 376 million minutes, beating the previous record of 86 million for the day of a rugby league match earlier in the year, and 10 times more than the biggest day recorded for Rio 2016. 18% of people aged 18-39 watched the Olympic action exclusively on 7plus, adding almost a third to the audience reach.

The Tokyo Olympics were naturally big in Japan, despite some opposition to them taking place in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. An estimated 73 million people watched the opening ceremony, out of a population of around 125 million. The four-hour ceremony was the most viewed event in the country for the last decade.