Opening ceremony delivers huge rating for NBC, up 13% from Beijing

NBC’s much maligned tape-delay strategy around the opening ceremony produced the most-watched first night for a Summer Olympics in history, with 40.7 million average viewers. The network says that it delivered a 21.0 rating/37 share for Friday night’s event, up 13 percent from Beijing (18.6/34) in 2008.

The previous high for viewership of an opening ceremony was Atlanta in 1996, with 39.8 million viewers. Beijing had 34.9 million viewers, while the last European Summer Olympics, Athens (14.6/27) in 2004, had 25.4 million.

It was the highest-rated Friday night on any network in a decade, according to NBC, since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games opening ceremony registered a 25.2 average rating.

"The audience number for the London opening ceremony is a great early sign that our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in prime time is working," NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement. "We look forward to the next 16 nights of compelling Olympic competition."

Last night’s 23.0 overnight rating, the highest for a non-U.S. opening ceremony, was up 7 percent from Beijing (21.5) and 28 percent from Athens (18.0), the network said. In the U.S., the overnight was highest in San Diego (27.8), followed by Washington, D.C. (26.8), West Palm Beach (26.8), Salt Lake City (26.6) and Denver (26.4).

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