09 February 2014

Who watches the Olympics anyway?

So based on studies from last time, my suspicions of the current Winter Games' audience are confirmed: 

1) Mostly women are watching (or at least more women than men)
2) Mostly older people are watching. 
2a) In fact an incredible percentage of older people are watching. 

My guesses for why
1) Most of the winter sports are kind of dull to watch. There isn't usually that much hockey coverage compared to figure skating, as the premier events, and that's really about it outside of snowboard/skiing stuff that's marginally exciting to a casual fan of winter sports. The Summer Olympics are all over the place with stuff to do or see which tends to be a little more interesting to someone (gymnastics, volleyball, swimming/diving, track, basketball, plus all the "niche" stuff like fencing or water polo). I think this pushes out non-casual sports fans who can just keep watching basketball games in the winter (hockey goes on break), and those hardline sports fans are skewed mostly male. I don't think the "dramatic stories" style of coverage for all Olympics actually has much of of a gendered bias so much as that men just find something else more exciting sports wise to watch. 

1a) There's also more obvious sex appeal in the summer games, as competitors aren't bundled up. I don't know if this effects the summer/winter skew or not. I haven't found that study. I did find studies that suggest the Summer games cover and televise more of the men's events. I can't remember seeing a women's basketball game for instance. And what women's events are covered tend toward the skimpy clothing fare (beach volleyball is really popular, along with swimming/diving and gymnastics). I'd bet these two things mean more men watch the summer games than the winter ones. 

2) Older people are more "patriotic" on average, and inclined to share in patriotic displays, which the Olympics clearly are. Younger people are more inclined to express views that are not as heavily dipped in "American exceptionalism" to care that much about patriotic displays. 

3) Older people have more nostalgic feelings toward the games, when they were once a soft power expression of the Cold War and can be associated with competition against clear global rivals (the Eastern Bloc). Running jokes about the judges from Poland or East Germany make less sense to a 25 year old today. China doesn't really have the same potency at the Winter games, which are more clearly a set of rich nation sports, so there's not as big of a soft power rival (I mean, really, who hates Norway or Germany that much in the US?). This cuts down on casual interest from younger people I would suspect. 

For what it's worth, I'm not planning on watching very much of this, if at all. It's prime basketball season, with both the All-Star game and college basketball in its stretch run. I was mostly noting the sources of commentary through social media conformed to a certain set. 
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