Olympics 2012: NBC finds vindication in opening ceremony record

NBC started the London Olympics with ratings gold.

Friday’s opening ceremony -- beamed to Americans mostly in prime time, hours after the marathon spectacle of parades, speeches and performances had wrapped up across the pond -- was the most-watched for any Summer Olympics, with an average of 40.7 million viewers tuning in, according to Nielsen.

The previous record-holder, the 1996 Atlanta games, drew 39.7 million. The Beijing ceremony delivered 34.9 million four years ago.

This year’s outing featured the customary parade of athletes and fireworks, capped by a live performance from Paul McCartney.

The impressive numbers gave some vindication to NBC executives, who on Friday endured intense criticism for blacking out live coverage of the ceremony on TV and online. Frustrated viewers turned to BBC live streams and other providers to see the coverage.

The network couldn’t resist some gloating.

“This audience number for the London Opening Ceremony is a great early sign that our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in primetime is working,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus wrote in a statement.


Let the gloating begin!

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-Scott Collins

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT