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Friday night’s Opening Ceremony in Rio was, by many accounts, a visual delight, and admirably touched on even the dark parts of Brazil’s history and present, like slavery and crime.
American television viewers, however, did not turn out as they have for previous ceremonies.
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Overnight ratings for the four-hour-plus broadcast came averaged a 16.5, the lowest rating for an Opening Ceremony since the 1992 Barcelona games, also broadcast on NBC.
The rating also represents a sizable difference from the 2012 London Games Opening Ceremony, which drew an average rating of 23.0 for NBC.
Despite Rio being just one hour ahead of the U.S. East Coast, the network made the decision to air the show on tape-delay, a choice that was criticized by many on social media.
Other possible factors include a storm of bad press for the Rio Games, a strong box office buoyed by the success of Suicide Squad and general indifference toward the idea of the Olympics.
NBC Sports PR tried to spin the numbers as best they could on Saturday morning and it’s possible things could look much better for the network once the big draws like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Simone Biles and the Dream Team start competing.
Still, the Opening Ceremony numbers have to be disappointing, especially considering the next three Olympics (PyeongChang, Korea in 2018, Tokyo in 2020 and Beijing in 2022) will feature plenty of obstacles, not the least of which will be sizable time differences.