With just under six weeks until the opening ceremonies for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics are scheduled, it sure appears that the Games will be played despite continuing concerns over Japan’s “fourth wave” of COVID-19 and slow vaccine rollout.

NBC has been moving full speed ahead, confident that the Tokyo Games will occur as planned. Of course, the network has a huge financial stake in the matter, hoping that summer programming built around the Olympics will provide a huge boost in viewership.

According to Bloomberg, NBCUniversal believes that the Tokyo Olympics could be the company’s most profitable broadcast ever. Prior to the Games being postponed in 2020, NBC said it sold a record-high $1.25 billion in advertising. Whether or not that number has changed during the past 15 months hasn’t been shared by the company.

Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company, paid $7.75 billion to air the Summer and Winter Olympics from 2021 to 2032, averaging out to $1.3 billion per year. The International Olympic Committee agreed to an extension with NBC (building off the $4.4 billion agreement from 2014 to 2020), rather than put broadcast rights up for bid with rivals including ESPN/ABC and Fox.

Of course, the performance of the U.S. team and standout athletes will influence viewers. From the Credit Suisse Investor Conference (held virtually), NBCUniversal executive Jeff Shell highlighted Simone Biles as a huge audience draw among many promising athletes and teams.

“Simone Biles is just amazing,” said Shell (via Bloomberg). “She’s going to be on every night, and then our swimming team is really strong, and our track and field team is really strong.”

Airing the Games has been financially successful for NBC. The last Summer Olympics, played in 2016 from Rio, averaged 26.6 million viewers per night, according to Sportico. An eventual $1.3 million in TV and digital ad sales resulted in a $250 million profit for Comcast.

NBCUniversal has 7,000 hours of Olympics programming planned for NBC’s broadcast network with cable channels including NBCSN, CNBC, Olympic Channel, USA Network, Golf Channel, and Telemundo, in addition to streaming platform Peacock. The company is hoping for increased interest from viewers who have been waiting for the Summer Olympics since its 2020 delay.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.