The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona had the Dream Team. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing had the Michael Phelps medal sweep. The Tokyo Olympics has a pandemic.
That has been the greatest challenge for NBCUniversal, the company that paid more than $1 billion to run 7,000 hours of games coverage across two broadcast networks, six cable channels and a fledgling streaming platform, Peacock.
The ratings have been a disappointment, averaging 16.8 million viewers a night through Tuesday, a steep drop from the 29 million who tuned in through the same day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. NBCUniversal has offered to make up for the smaller than expected television audience by offering free ads to some companies that bought commercial time during the games, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.
opening ceremony set a downbeat tone. Instead of the usual pageant of athletes smiling and waving to the crowd, there was a procession of participants walking through a mostly empty Tokyo Olympic Stadium, all wearing masks to protect themselves against the spread of Covid-19 as a new variant raged. The live morning broadcast and prime-time replay drew the lowest ratings for an opening ceremony in 33 years, with just under 17 million viewers. The high came Sunday, July 25, when a little more than 20 million people tuned in.
24 years as NBC’s prime-time Olympics host before leaving the network in 2017. “You can’t create something out of thin air. Everybody knows that this is, we hope, a one-of-a-kind Olympics.”
“It’s like if somebody is running the 100 meters and they have a weight around their ankles,” Mr. Costas continued. “That is not a fair judge of their speed.”
A widespread change in viewing habits, from traditional TV to streaming platforms, has been a big factor in the number of people watching. While NBC’s prime-time audience has shrunk considerably from what it was for the Rio games five years ago, the Olympics broadcasts are still bringing in significantly more viewers than even the most popular entertainment shows. The most recent episode of CBS’s “Big Brother,” a ratings leader, drew an audience of less than four million.
“We had a little bit of bad luck — there was a drumbeat of negativity,” said Jeff Shell, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, during a conference call last week, after NBC’s parent company, Comcast, reported its second-quarter earnings. The less-than-festive atmosphere, he added, “has resulted a little bit in linear ratings being probably less than we expected.”
a television critic for Vulture. “But more than anything, watching this year has shown the wounds that we’re dealing with.”
Ms. Chaney noted NBC’s interview with the American swimmer Caeleb Dressel right after he won gold in a glamour event, the men’s 100-meter freestyle. Moved to tears, Mr. Dressel said, “It was a really tough year. It was really hard.”
The 13-hour time-zone difference between Tokyo and the East Coast may have also figured in the drop in prime-time viewers. Many people in the United States have been waking up to phone alerts trumpeting the medal winners who will be featured in that night’s broadcast.
all-around win — seemed to gain traction not so much on TV but in snippets shared on social media. That trend has been apparent in the number of followers for NBCUniversal’s Olympics channel on TikTok, which have shot up 348 percent since the opening ceremony.
Those who decide to watch must choose from a jumble of channels and digital options. In addition to NBC, the coverage is spread across NBC Sports Network, CNBC, USA Network, the Olympic Channel, the Golf Channel, the Spanish-language channels Universo and Telemundo, not to mention NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.
There are so many choices that NBC’s “Today” show brought in Steve Kornacki, the political correspondent best known for elucidating election results, to break it all down. “If you’re a badminton fan, you’re going to be looking for NBCSN,” he told viewers. “If you’re an archery fan, USA Network. There’s all sorts of different possibilities!”
Jim Bell, who stepped away from Tokyo planning in 2018 when the company placed him in charge of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He left that program and NBC a year later.
Ms. Solomon said she has been waking up at 4:30 a.m. in Tokyo and relying on double-shot lattes to get her through workdays that may go till 11 p.m. She does not share the opinion of some critics of the coverage.
“Every day, new stars arise, and new stories come to the fore,” she said. “So, personally, I don’t want it to end.”
In the view of Mr. Costas, who guided viewers through NBC’s Olympics coverage from 1992 through 2016, any comparison of the Tokyo games with previous competitions is not fair, given the pall cast by the pandemic. And three years from now, if all goes according to plan, NBCUniversal will get what amounts to a do-over in Paris.
“Paris 2024 will be, we hope, fingers crossed, much more like a classic Olympics situation,” he said. “That will be a more legitimate test.”
Fox News once devoted its 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. time slots to relatively straightforward newscasts. Now those hours are filled by opinion shows led by hosts who denounce Democrats and defend the worldview of former President Donald J. Trump.
For seven years, Juan Williams was the lone liberal voice on “The Five,” the network’s popular afternoon chat show. On Wednesday, he announced that he was leaving the program, after months of harsh on-air blowback from his conservative co-hosts. Many Fox News viewers cheered his exit on social media.
Donna Brazile, the former Democratic Party chairwoman, was hired by Fox News with great fanfare in 2019 as a dissenting voice for its political coverage. She criticized Mr. Trump and spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, which other hosts on the network often demonized. Ms. Brazile has now left Fox News; last week, she quietly started a new job at ABC.
Onscreen and off, in ways subtle and overt, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.
amounted to an existential moment for a cable channel that is home to Trump cheerleaders like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham: the 2020 election.
Fox News’s ratings fell sharply after the network made an early call on election night that Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, would carry Arizona and later declared him the winner, even as Mr. Trump advanced lies about fraud. With viewers in revolt, the network moved out dissenting voices and put a new emphasis on hard-line right-wing commentary.
the network fired its veteran politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, who had been an onscreen face of the early call in Arizona for Mr. Biden. This month, it brought on a new editor in the Washington bureau: Kerri Kupec, a former spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s attorney general William P. Barr. She had no journalistic experience.
opinion shows at 7 and 11 — with segments that lament “cancel culture” and attack Mr. Biden — are attracting bigger audiences than the newscasts they replaced. And the niche right-wing network Newsmax has failed to sustain its postelection audience gains.
In some ways, the Murdochs are making a rational business decision by following the conservatives who have made up the heart of the Fox News audience; recent surveys show that more than three-quarters of Republicans want Mr. Trump to run in 2024.
But under Roger Ailes, the network’s founder, who shaped its look and feel, Fox News elevated liberal foils like Alan Colmes, a Democrat who shared equal billing in prime time with Mr. Hannity until the end of 2008, and moderates like Mr. Williams.
“Roger’s view was you had to have some unpredictability and you had to challenge the audience; you couldn’t just be reading Republican talking points every night,” said Susan R. Estrich, a Democratic lawyer and former commentator on Fox News who negotiated Mr. Ailes’s exit from the network amid his sexual misconduct scandal.
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Ms. Estrich recalled that Mr. Ailes had defended Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News host, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, attacked her in misogynist terms. Now, she said, “instead of trying to broaden their audience, Fox News is narrowing it and digging in.”
Rick Santorum, after he was criticized for remarks about Native Americans.
Ms. Brazile said she had left Fox News of her own accord.
“Fox never censored my views in any way,” she wrote in an email. “Everyone treated me courteously as a colleague.” Ms. Brazile added: “I believe it’s important for all media to expose their audiences to both progressive and conservative viewpoints. With the election and President Biden’s first 100 days behind us, I’ve accomplished what I wanted at Fox News.”
an outcry from the Anti-Defamation League.
A pro-Trump drift at Fox News is not new: George Will, a traditional conservative who opposed Mr. Trump’s candidacy, lost his contributor contract in 2017. Shepard Smith, a news anchor who was tough on Mr. Trump, left in 2019.
Some Fox News journalists, though, say privately that they are increasingly concerned with the network’s direction. Kristin Fisher, one of the network’s rising stars in Washington and a White House correspondent, left Fox News last month despite the network’s effort to keep her. She had faced criticism from viewers in November after a segment in which she aggressively debunked lies about election fraud advanced by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.
The longtime Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, resigned in January after internal criticism over his handling of election coverage, around the time that Mr. Stirewalt was fired. (Mr. Stirewalt was let go along with roughly 20 digital journalists at Fox News, which the network attributed to a realignment of “business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era.”)
Mr. Sammon has effectively been replaced by Doug Rohrbeck, a producer with extensive news experience on Bret Baier’s newscast and Chris Wallace’s Sunday show. Still, some Fox journalists were surprised when the network hired Ms. Kupec, the former Barr spokeswoman, to work under Mr. Rohrbeck. (In 2019, CNN hired Sarah Isgur, the spokeswoman for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as a political editor. After protests from staff, she was shifted to an on-air role and later left the network.)
Fox News International, a streaming service available in 37 countries in Asia and Europe.
Despite continuing criticism from liberals, Fox News remains a financial juggernaut for the Murdoch empire; it is expected to earn record advertising revenues this year, the network said.
Even as its programming decisions seem aimed at attracting Trump supporters, Fox News does face one roadblock: Mr. Trump. The former president has maintained his stinging criticism of Fox News, which, he has claimed, betrayed him by calling the election for Mr. Biden.
On Friday, after criticism from Paul Ryan, the former House speaker, Mr. Trump wrote that “Fox totally lost its way and became a much different place” after the Murdochs appointed Mr. Ryan to the Fox Corporation board.
Fox News, the cable news giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch, kept its parent company flush in the first three months of the year, notching a slight gain in profit and sales despite a drop in viewers.
Altogether, Fox Corporation beat Wall Street expectations with a sevenfold increase in profit to $567 million and a 6.5 percent drop in revenue to $3.2 billion compared with the same period a year prior. A change in how the company valued some of its assets was a key reason for the profit surge. Investors were looking for a $332 million profit and $3.1 billion in sales.
But revenue at most of its businesses dropped as fewer viewers tuned into the company’s cable channels and the Fox broadcast network, in part because Fox did not host the Super Bowl this year. Total advertising sales fell 24 percent to $1.2 billion, with the cable segment, primarily Fox News, seeing ad revenue drop 7 percent to $283 million.
The decrease in advertising mirrors the performance at other media conglomerates and spotlights a significant shift in the advertising market. Ad revenue jumped at Facebook, Google and even smaller digital publishers in the first quarter as advertisers were more willing to spend their budget on digital platforms, often at the expense of television.
overrated” and downplayed the severity of the brewing pandemic.
In a statement announcing the acquisition, Lachlan Murdoch, chief executive of Fox Corporation and the son of Rupert Murdoch, welcomed Mr. Travis. “Clay and his team have quickly made OutKick a content powerhouse with a very large, loyal and engaged audience.”
Despite the drop in viewers at Fox News, the network benefited from contractually triggered rate increases that cable operators pay to carry the channel. Licensing fees rose 6 percent to $1.07 billion. Advertising fell despite charging higher ad rates.
The younger Mr. Murdoch claimed victory for Fox News in a call with investors after the earnings report.
“Fox News reclaimed its leadership position as America’s No. 1 cable news network and the most-watched cable network in prime time,” he said before taking a moment to take a jab at rivals.
“MSNBC lost more than one-third of its audience and CNN lost over half,” he said. “Over half.”
Nearly 27 million people watched President Biden’s first formal address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, a large audience for television these days but a much smaller audience than similar speeches by other presidents, according to data from Nielsen.
Shown on all major networks and cable news channels starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time, the speech attracted a much larger television audience than Sunday’s Oscars telecast on ABC, which was watched by about 10 million people. But the audience was significantly smaller than the one for President Donald J. Trump’s first formal address to Congress in 2017, which drew 48 million viewers.
The television audience for Mr. Biden’s address also fell shy of those for equivalent speeches by other recent presidents. Barack Obama had an audience of 52 million in 2009; George W. Bush drew 40 million in 2001; and Bill Clinton’s first address was watched by 67 million in 1993.
Several factors contributed to the smaller ratings. Because of public health and security concerns at the Capitol, Mr. Biden’s speech came later in his presidency than those delivered by his recent predecessors, which all took place in February. There was also less pomp on Wednesday. Instead of an in-person audience of 1,600 senators, Supreme Court justices and other dignitaries seated cheek by jowl with House members, only 200 people were present because of social-distancing restrictions.
TV ratings, in general, have sunk in recent years, as more people have dropped cable subscriptions in favor of streaming, a shift that was accelerated by pandemic viewing habits. And the number of people watching television in the spring, compared with the winter, tends to be smaller.
ABC had the biggest audience for the address, with roughly 4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen, and MSNBC was right behind, with 3.9 million. Fox News and the Fox broadcast networks had the smallest audiences, with 2.9 million viewers (Fox News) and 1.6 million (Fox broadcast).
The Fox audience came out in force for the post-speech analysis by anchors and commentators and the Republican rebuttal from Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. In the 30 minutes after the address, Fox News was the only network to have a surge in viewers, with an average of 3.2 million people tuning in.
The analysis of the speech varied depending on the network. The Fox News contributor Ben Domenech called Mr. Biden’s speech a “tissue of lies.” On MSNBC, the anchor Brian Williams hailed it as “Rooseveltian in size and scope.”
LOS ANGELES — For the film industry, which was already fighting to hold its place at the center of American culture, the Nielsen ratings for Sunday night’s 93rd Academy Awards came as a body blow: About 9.85 million people watched the telecast, a 58 percent plunge from last year’s record low.
Among adults 18 to 49, the demographic that many advertisers pay a premium to reach, the Oscars suffered an even steeper 64 percent decline, according to preliminary data from Nielsen released on Monday. Nielsen’s final numbers are expected on Tuesday and will include out-of-home viewing and some streaming statistics.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declined to comment.
The academy had been bracing for a sharp ratings drop. Award shows have been struggling mightily during the pandemic, and the Oscars have been on a downward trajectory for years. But some academy officials had hoped Sunday’s telecast still might crack 10 million viewers and attract as many as 15 million.
Humiliating? Certainly. But hundreds of millions of dollars are also at stake.
Under a long-term licensing deal with ABC, which is owned by Disney, the academy stands to collect roughly $900 million between 2021 and 2028 for worldwide broadcasting rights to the Oscars. The funds are crucial to the academy’s operations, especially at a time when it is spending to open a museum in Los Angeles. But some of that money is threatened. Payments to the academy include a guarantee and then revenue sharing if certain ad sales thresholds are reached.
keep ad rates high because of the fragmentation of television viewing. Oscars night may be a shadow of its former self, but so is the rest of network television; the ceremony still ranks as one of the largest televised events of the year. Google, General Motors, Rolex and Verizon spent an estimated $2 million for each 30-second spot in Sunday’s telecast, only a slight decline from last year’s pricing, according to media buyers. ABC said on Thursday that it had sold out of its inventory.
ABC does not guarantee an audience size to Oscar advertisers, thus removing any potential for so-called make-goods (additional commercial time at a later date) to compensate for low ratings.
Some people in the entertainment industry, whether out of optimism or denial or both, believe award shows are going through a temporary downturn — that declining ratings for stalwarts like the Emmys (a 30-year low) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (down 52 percent) reflect the pandemic, not a paradigm shift. Without live audiences, the telecasts have been drained of their energy. The big studios also postponed major movies, leaving this year’s awards circuit to little-seen art films.
The most-nominated movie on Sunday was “Mank.” It received 10 nods. Surveys before the show indicated most Americans had never even heard of it, much less watched it, despite its availability on Netflix. “Mank,” a love letter to Old Hollywood from David Fincher, won for production design and cinematography.
Still, the Oscars have been on a downward slide since 1998, when 57.2 million people tuned in to see “Titanic” sweep to best-picture victory.
Game Awards, which celebrates the best video games of the year and is streamed on platforms like YouTube, Twitch and Twitter.)
In many cases, analysts say, the telecasts are too long for contemporary attention spans. The ceremony on Sunday was one of the shorter ones in recent years, and it still ran 3 hours 19 minutes. Why slog through all that when you can catch snippets on Twitter? On Sunday, video from the ceremony showing Glenn Close twerking to “Da Butt” went viral.
down 53 percent) and Golden Globes (down 62 percent). Still, the Oscars ratings plunge in recent years has been more dramatic, and the Grammys is closing in on becoming the most-watched awards show, once an inconceivable notion. It had nearly 9 million viewers for its telecast last month.
The academy itself has played a role in the show’s demise, bungling efforts to make it more relevant (hastily announcing a new category honoring achievement in “popular” films and then backtracking) and refusing ABC’s plea to reduce the number of Oscars presented during the show.
housing and health care for Hollywood seniors.
A spokeswoman for the academy said the producers of the Oscars were not available on Monday to discuss their decisions.
More than 18 million people tuned in to cable and broadcast networks for the reading of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial on Tuesday, a huge viewership total for a late afternoon, according to preliminary data from Nielsen.
An average of four million people watched CNN from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., more than double the number of viewers the network drew the previous day in the same time slot, according to Nielsen. Another four million watched on ABC, and 3.4 million saw it on Fox News. MSNBC and CBS each had about three million viewers.
NBC’s viewership totals were not yet available, which means the verdict was likely seen on television by an audience of more than 20 million. And because Nielsen’s numbers do not include people who watched the proceedings on their phones or laptops, the total number of people who watched was certainly even bigger than that.
Viewer interest was strong throughout the three-week trial of Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd last May. On several days, CNN had more viewers during key portions of the trial in the afternoon than it did in prime time, usually its most watched hours.
CNN’s sibling network, HLN, which covered the entirety of the trial, had its highest ratings since its coverage of the George Zimmerman trial in 2013. Mr. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.
“The wants and habits of our consumers evolve by the day,” Mr. Cheeks wrote to his staff in a memo last week. He effusively praised Ms. Zirinsky as an “indefatigable” driver of “powerful journalism” while suggesting that it would fall to the next generation of CBS leaders to usher in the modern era: “Z has helped position the division for success.”
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Ms. Zirinsky, in the interview, said that “every part of my being believes this transition is right, at the right time, with the right ideas.” She conceded she “would be lying” if she claimed ratings were unimportant, but she noted that “Evening News” had narrowed its deficit in the key demographic and that she had shored up a newsroom that, after the convulsions of recent years, had “felt a bit abandoned.”
Ms. Zirinsky signed the star anchor Gayle King to a new contract at “CBS This Morning,” which had lost momentum after the exit of its former co-anchor Charlie Rose over claims of workplace misconduct. On March 8, the show beat ABC and NBC for the first time on the strength of its exclusive excerpts from Oprah Winfrey’s CBS interview with Meghan Markle. “60 Minutes” and “CBS Sunday Morning” remained highly respected and highly rated.
Some of Ms. Zirinsky’s strengths — a love of producing; an encyclopedic knowledge of the network — proved double-edged. Accustomed to the banter of the control room, she sometimes mused aloud about personnel changes, prompting unease and unauthorized leaks; trained to report every fact, she spent months seeking input about her next moves, delaying big decisions.
By the time Ms. O’Donnell was officially named “Evening News” anchor in May 2019 — days after the announcement had leaked to The New York Post — Ms. Zirinsky had openly told colleagues that the network presidency could be an awkward fit for her. The Post reported last week that Ms. Zirinsky, during a lengthy corporate budget meeting, scrawled “I hate my job” on a sheet of paper and held it up.
“I am transparent,” Ms. Zirinsky said, when asked about her expressions of frustration with the job. “The passion that I feel sometimes gets misinterpreted. I wouldn’t have traded this for anything. If I was asked today to step into this role, I would do it all over again.”
CBS News has tried a number of approaches over the years to lift its fortunes.
The “Evening News” tried a megawatt star (Katie Couric) and a lesser-known homegrown prospect (Jeff Glor). “CBS This Morning” was a revolving door of anchors and producers. David Rhodes, who had worked at Fox News before he became the CBS News president in 2011, ran the division in the style of a technocrat before he was replaced by Ms. Zirinsky, the old-school shoe leather journalist.
Public perception of Ms. DeGeneres started to change in July when BuzzFeed reported that several of the show’s former and current staff members said they had confronted “racism, fear and intimidation” on the set. Several staff members also said producers had sexually harassed them. Warner Bros. investigated the workplace and found “deficiencies.” Three high-level producers were fired, including Ed Glavin, an executive producer; Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer; and Kevin Leman, the head writer. Ms. DeGeneres apologized to her staff before addressing her viewers in September.
Some observers believe the accusations may have weakened Ms. DeGeneres’s relationship with her audience. The host built her show as an oasis from the outside world, a place of goofy dancing, light jokes, cash giveaways to surprised audience members and high-wattage celebrity guests. Several years ago, she adopted “be kind” as her motto, in response to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay college student who took his own life after being bullied.
“Her brand is not just being fairly nice — it is ‘Be Kind,’” said Stephen Galloway, the dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of film and media arts. “She’s chosen two words to stamp herself. You cannot have hypocrisy better defined than when you’ve chosen those two words to define yourself and everyone is seeing the opposite is true inside your show.
“The reason the incident with the producers was such a difficult and perilous moment is it’s the first time where something surfaced to indicate that a family — Ellen’s own professional family — was dysfunctional,” he continued.
Ms. DeGeneres referred to her motto in her on-air apology. “Being known as the Be Kind Lady is a tricky position to be in,” she said. “So let me give you some advice. If anyone is thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the Be Kind Lady.” She added that she was indeed the cheerful person she appeared to be on television, but was also someone who experienced moments of sadness, anxiety and impatience.
In addition to her daytime show, Ms. DeGeneres is also a prime-time star for NBC — and her show for that network, “Ellen’s Game of Games,” also a Warner production, has lost 32 percent of its viewers this season, as well as 35 percent in the adult demographic important to advertisers.
Even with the complications affecting all talk shows during the pandemic, “Ellen,” with its loss of 43 percent of its audience, has suffered a steeper decline than its rivals. “Dr. Phil” is down 22 percent, and “The Kelly Clarkson” show has lost 26 percent of its viewers. Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest’s show has lost just 3 percent, and “Tamron Hall” is down 9 percent.
Viewership for Sunday’s Grammy Awards on CBS fell to 8.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen, the television research firm.
That’s a new low for the show and a 53 percent drop compared with last year’s show, which drew 18.7 million viewers. The previous low was 17 million viewers in 2006, when Green Day won record of the year.
Two weeks earlier, the Golden Globes lost 62 percent of its audience, attracting 6.9 million viewers on NBC.
Viewership for all live television events has plummeted as people have seemed less enthusiastic about watching three-hour events packed with commercial breaks. The Super Bowl last month fell to a 15-year low in viewership. And it appears there is limited interest in a ceremony that has been scaled down because of coronavirus precautions.
praise for its production, with a mix of live performances and a small ceremony in an open-air tent outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Trevor Noah, the show’s host, likewise received warm reviews.
Still, the ratings news is likely to set off alarm bells for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Awards’ broadcaster, ABC. Viewership of last year’s Oscars broadcast fell to a low of 23.6 million. Nominees for this year’s awards were announced Monday, and the ceremony is scheduled for April 25.