Tape-delayed Opening Ceremony turns out to be ratings gold for NBC

TV viewers hoping to watch future Olympic opening ceremonies live probably aren't going to get their wish anytime soon.

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NBC's coverage for the opening to the 2012 London Games delivered the best overnight ratings ever for an Olympics held outside the United States and a 7 percent uptick over ratings from the Beijing Opening Ceremony in 2008. The huge 23.0 rating validates the network's oft-criticized strategy to tape delay the Opening Ceremony in prime time on both coasts and to not even stream the event live on the Internet.

Although NBC proudly boasted that the 2012 Olympics would be streamed live from start to finish on the network's website, it chose to make the Opening and Closing Ceremony an exception to that. NBC attempted to justify that decision on its Facebook page Friday night, explaining that all competitive events will air live but the Opening and Closing Ceremony are "entertainment spectacles" best shown "at a time when friends and family are able to gather together to watch."

Critics blasted the decision to submit U.S. viewers to local news while the rest of the world watched James Bond parachute into the stadium or David Beckham arrive via speedboat, but apparently the decision proved worthwhile. Not enough fans watched live via bootleg feeds or skipped the Opening Ceremony altogether to make NBC regret its decision.

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To put the Opening Ceremony ratings into context, it was significantly larger than those of the 2012 BCS title game or Game 5 of the NBA Finals but still not even half as big as that of the Super Bowl.

San Diego had the highest rating among the 56 major markets measured with an average rating of 27.8, meaning 49 percent of homes that were watching TV had the Olympics on. Washington, D.C. (26.8), West Palm Beach (26.8), Salt Lake City (26.6) and Denver (26.4) rounded out the top five.

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