Beijing numbers rising for NBC
NBC's Friday night network broadcast of the Beijing Games opening ceremony averaged 34.2 million viewers, up from the 2004 Athens Games' opening broadcast, which had an average audience of 25.4 million viewers.
(For comparison's sake, the 1996 Atlanta Games, which got a boost from friendlier time zones, averaged 39.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.)
NBC Universal reported that 69.9 million total viewers tuned in for at least part of the broadcast that ran from 8 p.m. to 11:19 p.m. (EDT/PDT). The 2004 Athens Games' opening broadcast drew 56 million total viewers, and the Atlanta Games broadcast attracted 77 million total viewers. (Nielsen Media Research doesn't have corresponding numbers from the 1984 Los Angeles Games.)
The Beijing broadcast earned an 18.6 national rating, a 27% increase over the Athens Games' 14.6 opening night rating. Atlanta's first-night broadcast earned a 23.6 rating, and the 1984 Games had a 23.9 rating.
NBC Universal boasted that Friday night's show was "the highest rated Opening Ceremony for a non-domestic Summer Olympics ever, surpassing the 1960 Rome Games on CBS that delivered an 18.1/36, a record that stood for 48 years, according to Nielsen Media Research."
Here's what Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, said in a statement: "The Olympic Opening Ceremony captivated the American public in unprecedented numbers for a non-U.S. Olympics. It was a magical and memorable spectacle and a great way to start the Beijing Olympics."
-- Greg Johnson
Photo: Fireworks light up the sky as paramilitary policemen stand guard outside the Bird's Nest during the 2008 Beijing Games' opening ceremony on Friday night. Credit: China Photos / Getty Images