Did the Olympics impact kids' TV viewing?

Sangita Sivanesan

By Sangita Sivanesan

September 21st 2016 at 11:21AM
UPDATED September 22nd 2016 at 12:00PM
Did the Olympics impact kids' TV viewing?

With over five million people in the UK staying up to catch a glimpse of this year’s sporting activities at the Rio Olympics, Generation Media’s Sangita Sivanesan takes a look at how the event has effected kids’ TV viewing.

“Viva sua paixão (Live Your Passion)”, – the official motto for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Once every four years, the best athletes from all over the world congregate to compete for their chance at Olympic glory. It is a pivotal sporting event that brings the world together for a moment in time in the name of passion, persistence and patriotism.

In true Olympic fashion, the games this year have attracted an enormous viewing audience. BARB viewing statistics revealed that over five million individuals in the UK stayed up way past their bedtimes to watch the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The closing ceremony was more popular with just under seven million individuals tuning in. Although it was an incredibly successful Olympics for team GB, the TV viewing audience this year was lower than that of London 2012. The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics recorded an audience of over 29 million individuals in the UK.

Considering the strong overall following that the Olympics has garnered over the years, we thought it would be interesting to look into the effect that a major worldwide event, like the Olympics can have on children’s television viewing habits. Is the younger UK audience as mesmerised with the Olympics as the rest of the world is? Do they even watch it?

During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, children’s equivalent impacts across commercial kid’s channels were up by three per cent when compared to the previous year. This was not a big increase and may not necessarily have any significant correlation with the Olympics, especially considering factors such as time difference.

On the other hand, the London 2012 Olympics saw a drop off in children’s viewing across commercial kids channels by 12 per cent. It could be argued that this was to be expected as a combined result of having the Olympics at home and the events being broadcasted at a suitable viewing time. The Olympic spirit of passion, persistence and patriotism inspired the wider audience, who religiously followed the games, producing an audience averaging at 4.6 million individuals throughout the games (average viewing of the Beijing Olympics was just over 1.8 million).

Children’s equivalent impacts across commercial kids’ channels were down by 16 per cent during the Rio Olympics when compared to the same time period of the previous year.

Interestingly, day eight of the Rio Olympics when Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford attempted to repeat Super Saturday from London 2012 by winning gold medals within 45 minutes of each other, received a UK children’s audience of c.98,000.

Despite the Olympics coverage starting at 23.30, the kids audience was 11 per cent higher than the best performing show across commercial kid’s channels on that day, Pokémon The Series: XYZ on CITV. This not only shows that parents are allowing their children to stay up to watch the Olympics, but also that children are showing a keen interest in the games.

All in all, looking at the TV data recorded across the past three Olympics, we can see definitive trends. The broadcasting of the Beijing Olympics had a negligible impact on children’s viewing across commercial kids’ channels. However, when the Olympics were at home, there was a dramatic drop.

This was observed again this year during the Rio 2016 games, with a bigger drop off despite the time difference, leading us to believe that GB hosting the Olympics in 2012 ignited a new wave of Olympic fans within the younger population supporting their home athletes at the Olympics. With the Rio Paralympics currently underway, it will be interesting to see if this trend persists.

However, to consolidate this observation, viewing data from future Olympics will need to be analysed. Can the UK sustain both success on the track and commitment from young TV viewers? Bring on Tokyo 2020.