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Volume 10 No. 22
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BBC, NBC Reap Ratings Records As Opening Ceremony Captivates Global Audiences

The BBC said that the audience for Friday night's coverage of the Olympic Opening Ceremony was "a record for the 21st century," according to Ben Fenton of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The average of 22.4 million viewers for a program that latest more than three hours was the biggest since '98, with a peak audience at 9:45pm GMT of 26.9 million viewers. The BBC said that the Opening Ceremony "was still being watched by more than 20 million people in the U.K. at midnight." It also proved to be "one of the largest audiences to have watched live television online," with a further 1 million seeing a streamed feed on the Internet. The last program to win a bigger average audience was the '98 football match in St. Etienne when Argentina knocked England out of the World Cup (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28).

RECORD U.S. AUDIENCE: In London, David Brown reported that "a record 40.7 million Americans watched" TV coverage of the Opening Ceremony despite the broadcast being delayed for up to seven hours. NBC said that "the average audience for the Ceremony was 6 million more" than the Opening Ceremony form Beijing in '08, and also beat the 39.8 million audience for the Atlanta Olympic Games in '96. NBC "was criticized" for not broadcasting the ceremony live. In addition, NBC also edited the ceremony to remove several sections. A tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terror attack on London was axed while an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest was inserted (LONDON TIMES, 7/28).

RECORDS FALL IN CANADA, TOO: Live coverage of the Opening Ceremony by Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium has broken records as the most-watched Summer Olympic Games broadcast on record in Canada. On average, 6.4 million Canadians watched the late-afternoon, 3.5-hour-plus ceremony from 4-7pm EST, making it the second most-watched Opening Ceremony in Canada behind the '10 Winter Games in Vancouver (13.5 million). The audience eclipsed the previous Summer Games record-holder, the '96 Atlanta Opening Ceremony (4.3 million), by 49%, and delivered nearly four times the audience of '08 Beijing Opening Ceremony (1.6 million), and more than four times the audience of '04 Athens Opening Ceremony (1.4 million) (BBM Canada).

AUSTRALIA'S EARLY MORNING: In Sydney, Michael Idato reported that "more than 2 million people across" the country braving a cold dawn watched the Opening Ceremony on TV. Nine's telecast of the Opening Ceremony, which was hosted by Eddie McGuire and Leila McKinnon, drew "2.41 million viewers across the entire four-hour ceremony." In the ceremony's final moments, when the Olympic cauldron was lit, it rose to almost 3 million viewers. Nine replayed it later to a national audience of 1.81 million (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/29).

SPAIN ON PAR: EL PERIODICO reported that TVE-1's broadcast of the Opening Ceremony was the "big star of television in Spain," with an average of 5.7 million people tuned in or a 46.1% market share. That number is just an average, "but you have to keep in mind" that most people did not watch the entire show. Overall, the "accumulated audience for the show" was more than 13.5 million people. It was the second most-watched Opening Ceremony ever behind the '92 Barcelona Games (EL PERIODICA, 7/28).

LOW GERMAN NUMBERS: The VOLKSSTIMME reported that an "average of 7.66 million people" watched the Opening Ceremony on Friday night. The broadcast attained a market share of 43.5%. Previous Opening Ceremonies reached higher audience numbers with '08 Beijing averaging 7.7 million viewers and '04 Athens averaging almost 13 million during prime time (VOLKSSTIMME, 7/28).

In Paris, Catherine Balle  reported that TF1's broadcast pulled in 8.7 million viewers in France or a 57% market share. The peak time was registered at 10:30pm GMT when 12.8 million people were tuned in to the ceremony (LE PARISIEN, 7/28).