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A cameraman films events during the athletics at the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 31, 2021, in Tokyo. NBC viewership numbers are down considerably from the Rio Games.

David J. Phillip/The Associated Press

For most nights at the Tokyo Olympics, NBC’s prime time coverage is drawing about half the audience that the Games had in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

The numbers are sobering: Sunday’s NBC audience of 13 million was down 51 per cent from the 26.7 million who watched the corresponding night in Rio. Saturday night was down 57 per cent, last Wednesday down 53 per cent and Tuesday down 58 per cent, the Nielsen company said.

NBC’s best night last week, when it reached 16.2 million on Thursday, was still down 43 per cent from Rio, Nielsen said.

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“We’ve had some bad luck,” NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Shell said last week. “There was a drumbeat of negativity ... and that has resulted in linear ratings being probably less than we expected.”

COVID restrictions that left largely empty arenas, the time difference with Japan and a lack of star power has played a part. Add in cable networks and streaming, and NBC Universal’s position improves, but not by much.

The marked change in how people experience television in the past five years plays a part in the ratings decline. NBC’s prime time had, on average, 35 per cent less viewers this season than it had in 2015-16, Nielsen said.

One saving grace is NBC’s dominance against its rivals. In fact, Fox last week averaged below 1 million viewers in prime time, believed to be the first time that’s ever happened for one of the top four broadcast networks.

NBC averaged 13.4 million viewers in prime time last week. CBS had 2.22 million, ABC had 2.17 million, Univision had 1.9 million, Ion Television had 1.1 million, and Fox and Telemundo tied with 980,000.

Fox News Channel led the cable networks with an average of 1.95 million viewers in prime time. USA had 1.68 million, MSNBC had 1.1 million, HGTV had 979,000 and TLC had 882,000.

ABC’s World News Tonight led the evening news ratings race with an average of 7.5 million viewers. NBC’s Nightly News had 7.2 million and the CBS Evening News had 4.8 million.

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For the week of July 26 to Aug. 1, the top 20 shows in prime time, their networks and viewerships:

1. “Summer Olympics” (Thursday), NBC, 16.19 million.

2. “Summer Olympics” (Monday), NBC, 14.76 million.

3. “Summer Olympics” (Tuesday), NBC, 14.01 million.

4. “Summer Olympics” (Sunday), NBC, 13.02 million.

5. “Summer Olympics” (Wednesday), NBC, 12.29 million.

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6. “Summer Olympics” (Friday), NBC, 11.73 million.

7. “Summer Olympics” (Saturday), NBC, 10.91 million.

8. Soccer: Copa Oro 2021: EEUU vs. Mexico, Univision, 5.17 million.

9. 60 Minutes, CBS, 4.9 million.

10. Big Brother (Thursday), CBS, 3.86 million.

11. Big Brother (Wednesday), CBS, 3.79 million.

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12. Big Brother (Sunday), CBS, 3.4 million.

13. The Bachelorette, ABC, 3.36 million.

14. Celebrity Family Feud, ABC, 3.33 million.

15. NCIS, CBS, 3.31 million.

16. Soccer: Copa Oro 2021: Mexico vs. Canada, 3.26 million.

17. America’s Funniest Home Videos, ABC, 3.25 million.

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18. The $100,000 Pyramid, ABC, 3.19 million.

19. Press Your Luck, ABC, 3.05 million.

20. Tucker Carlson Tonight (Tuesday), Fox News, 3.01 million.

Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the Summer Games in Tokyo.

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