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Opening Ceremonies Do Well on NBC (Updated)

Pleased to offer a report from television columnist Lisa de Moraes below.

But first, this is a good place to mention that Paul Farhi's blog on Olympic TV coverage, "Playback," is up and running. Check it out ... here's Lisa:

NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing was the most watched ever for a non-U.S. Summer Olympics in the nearly 50 years of televised Games, according to early stats from NBC.

An estimated 70 million viewers watched at least six minutes of the $300 million extravaganza, NBC says. Meanwhile, the broadcast's average audience - the stat that goes in the record books on most TV programming - hit more than 34 million.

The first number - the so-called "reach" stat - is relevant to advertisers because it's presumed anyone who watched at least 6 minutes of a broadcast saw an ad break.

For comparison sake, both the Athens and Sydney Olympics opening ceremonies reached 56 million viewers and had average audiences of about 25 million and 27 million, respectively.

Friday's numbers do not eclipse the crowds who'd tuned in to the Atlanta Summer Games' opening ceremony. That program "reached" 77 million viewers and had an average audience of just under 40 million. Domestic Games broadcasts typically do better numbers than overseas Games, in part because of tape delays., meanwhile reported 70 million pages views Friday - 10 times more than the 7 million page views on opening day of the Athens Games in '04.

NBC execs are dancing the happy dance, having spent nearly $900 million for U.S. telecast and digital rights to the Games, and given that some industry navel gazers predicted the opening ceremony would not match viewing levels of the Athens opener.

Conventional wisdom said the opening extravaganza's tape delay would be a problem; there was also some talk the boatloads of photos, news reports, and video available hours before NBC's broadcast via the Web might tamp down viewing levels. Happily for NBC, that proved to be a bunch of hooey, as does so much of TV industry navel gazing.

As with the very preliminary household rating/share stats released earlier today, these latest figures based on information from Nielsen Company, do not include viewing of the opening ceremony from 7:30-8 p.m. or from 11:19 p.m. until the bash wrapped around midnight. If you were watching during those times only, you are irrelevant. NBC can wipe those sure-to-be-lower-viewing periods from the opening ceremony-cast because it put all of its TV stations' local ads in the breaks during those times; no national ads ran in the commercial breaks you saw at the start of, or in the final 40-minutes-ish of the ceremony.

Nielsen, you see, has this alternate reality in which any portion of a national broadcast that contains only local ads does not have to be counted. That's because, Nielsen claims, they are in the business of providing ratings to advertisers, not viewers or The Reporters Who Cover Television. To be fair, NBC's not the only network that plays this game with big-ticket broadcasts. You should see how the networks carve up the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, etc.

In a nutshell:

Non-U.S. Opening Ceremony Average Audience Ranking:

1) Beijing, 2008: 34.2 million
2) Sydney, 2000: 27.3 million
3) Athens, 2004: 25.4 million
4) Seoul, 1988: 22.7 million
5) Barcelona, 1992: 21.6 million

Non-U.S. Opening Ceremony "Total" Audience (Audience Reach):

1) Beijing, 2008: 69.9 million
2) Athens, 2004: 56.0 million
3) Sydney, 2002: 56.0 million
4) Seoul, 1988: 51.2 million
5) Barcelona, 1992: 50.2 million

By Jon DeNunzio  |  August 9, 2008; 4:58 PM ET
Categories:  Opening Ceremonies , Television  
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The most impressive part was they did it all with crap made in China .

Posted by: nat turner | August 9, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

where can i find the full replay of the opening ceremonies?

Posted by: random | August 9, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

This is the show that I can only say WOW!
No other word can be used.

Posted by: Fred | August 9, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, thought it was impressive but too complex in many parts.

The torch-lighting was certainly imaginative,but 'gimmicky'. Nothing yet can surpass that incredible flaming arrow show of more than 100 yards in Barcelona. That bowman would have been at home at Agincourt.

Posted by: JPM | August 9, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

The opening was incredible. Despite all the hi tech wizardry, I actually felt transported back to ancient China. What impressed me most, however, was that the producers avoided all politics. I'm quite familiar with Chinese media and know that virtually all internal extravaganzas have a political bent, usually toward Communism. Yet they wisely chose to omit any mention of it in the timeline of China. There was no mention of Mao or The Great March. Bravo.

Posted by: Sam | August 11, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

NBC seems to be more concerned about blocking broadcasts from other countries, not because of their right, but to avoid Americans seeing the editing that NBC took the liberty of doing to the Opening Ceremony.

After comparing with the BBC broadcast, it is clear NBC discarded certain images of the artistic presentation of the event. At least one of those images was clearly political. The delayed broadcast on Friday night, a blatant act of commercialism, outraged thousands of Americans. However, should this broadcasting company be made to answer about the censorship it imposed on 260 million Americans?
The Olympics are a legitimate news event. Should we expect the same altering of the Closing Ceremonies?

Posted by: Lightbulb | August 11, 2008 3:04 AM | Report abuse

after learning of the little chinese girl lip snyching it has taken away some of the lustre from the opening cremony.their reason for doing it was because the original singer was not heart wrenching this must be for this child.

Posted by: ron | August 16, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

How and where can I purchase the DVD or Video of the Pre-Olympics Opening ceremonies?

Posted by: | August 16, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

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