The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics scored the event’s biggest U.S. TV audience ever.
NBC’s telecast of the event drew a massive 40.7 million viewers, topping the 1996 Atlanta opening ceremony (39.8 million) as the most-watched beginning to a summer games since they were first televised in 1960.
NBC’s decision not to live-stream the opening ceremony (although it’s streaming nearly every competition during the games) prompted a flurry of complaints from social-media users Friday, but the ratings numbers seem to indicate the network made the right call.
Friday’s opening ceremony from London improved on the 2008 ceremony in Beijing (34.9 million) by close to 6 million viewers and was up a whopping 15 million from the 2004 Athens opening (25.4 million). It also gave NBC the biggest Friday-night ratings for any network in 10 years — since the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The opening ceremony is the No. 4 most-watched program of 2012, trailing only three NFL contests: the Super Bowl (111.3 million) and the NFC (57.6 million) and AFC (48.7 million) championship games.