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Summer Olympics Openers Draw Big Crowds and Advertising Dollars
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Summer Olympics Openers Draw Big Crowds and Advertising Dollars

With the 2012 Summer Olympics set to kick off this Friday with the opening ceremony in London, Nielsen took a look back at past years’ festivities to see how they measured up. According to the Nielsen analysis, of non-U.S.-based Games, the 2008 Beijing Games’ opening ceremony garnered the most U.S. viewers: 18.8 percent of TV households and 34.9 million viewers tuned in. Interestingly, Americans are much more likely to tune in when the Games happen on their home turf. The most viewed Olympics opening ceremony by percentage of U.S. TV homes tuned in was in 1984 when the Games were in Los Angeles, while the 1996 Atlanta Games attracted the largest number of viewers: roughly 40 million.

The average cost of a 30-second U.S. commercial spot during the Olympics opening ceremony has steadily increased over the years, from $155,000 in 1988 to $320,000 in 2008. These figures have not been adjusted for inflation.

Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies: A Historical Look at U.S. Viewership & Ad Costs

Site Year Network Date Household Rating Average Number of Viewers Cost per :30 Spot*
Beijing 2008 NBC Aug. 8 18.8 34,902,000 $320,000
Athens 2004 NBC Aug. 13 14.6 25,384,000 $340,000
Sydney 2000 NBC Sep. 15 16.2 27,272,000 $275,000
Atlanta 1996 NBC Jul. 19 23.6 39,767,000 $250,000
Barcelona 1992 NBC Jul. 25 13.8 21,609,000 $168,300
Seoul 1988 NBC Sep. 17 15.2 22,685,000 $155,000
Los Angeles 1984 ABC Jul. 28 23.9 N/A N/A
Moscow 1980 Boycott
Montreal 1976 ABC Jul. 17 11.1 13,870,000 N/A
Munich 1972 ABC Aug. 26 6.5 N/A N/A
Source: Nielsen

Household Rating is defined as the percentage of total U.S. TV households that tuned in, on average.

*Figures represent cost of a :30 spot at that time and are not adjusted for inflation.

Learn more about ad costs and TV households.