NBC scores Olympic-sized ratings with opening ceremony

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NBC’s broadcast of the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony on Friday scored big ratings with an average of 32.6 million people watching the festivities.

It was the second largest audience for a Winter Olympics kickoff since 1994. The Salt Lake City Games in 2002 appear to have been the ratings peak when an average of 45.6 million people watched. Interest among viewers is typically higher when the Olympics are held in the U.S.

NBC Sports executives have been optimistic that the 2010 Games also would perform well because Vancouver is just a few miles north of the U.S. border and within the Pacific time zone. That means that more than half of the country will be able to see events live on TV. (NBC is delaying the prime-time telecast for the Pacific and Mountain time zones so the events fall in the traditional prime-time window, when advertising rates are higher).

The start of the Olympics was marred by tragedy when a 21-year-old luge athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili from the Republic of Georgia was killed during a practice run.


Four years ago, an average of 22.2 million viewers -- 10 million fewer than Friday night --watched the opening ceremony when the events were held in Turin, Italy. NBC said a total of 67.5 million people in the U.S. watched all or some of its prime-time telecast from Vancouver on Friday.

-- Meg James