The London 2012 Olympic Games opened fast straight out of the gate, answering the challenge of the Beijing Games of 2008 with a worldwide celebration and a Broadway-worthy English history lesson. Between the dozens of Mary Poppins-es, James Bond and Queen Elizabeth all dropping in from above, Rowan Atkinson hamming it up from within a symphony orchestra, and Paul McCartney leading a sing along to “Hey Jude”, the only way it could’ve been more British would have been for Dr. Who Daleks to light the Olympic flame with tea-soaked dead parrots while silly walking around the Tardis, all to the Benny Hill theme.
But we Americans tend not just to be Anglophiles; we also love this Olympic spectacle. Nationally, 40.7 million of us watched the Opening Ceremonies, all of which came from watching on a traditional television set. NBC made the decision not to live stream the opening coverage (nor the closing ceremonies), as the festivities are seen as an entertainment event and not an athletic one. Once the coverage becomes results-driven, NBC will broadcast coverage of their games across all of their available platforms, including streaming them online.
As usual, the spotlight events such as gymnastics, swimming, beach volleyball, and track and field, as well as the team sports like basketball and women’s soccer, will be telecast on NBC’s premium platform — Broadcast primetime TV.
The opening gala certainly resonated with viewers across the country. While the national metered-market household rating of 23.0 made it the best non-U.S. Opening Ceremonies coverage ever (yes, even topping the vaunted Beijing Games’ 21.5), the result was exceeded in many local markets. San Diego delivered the highest household rating of any local DMA at 27.8, followed by Washington, DC and West Palm Beach with a 26.8, followed closely by Salt Lake City (26.6) and Denver (26.4). In fact, each of the Top 20 ranked markets delivered a higher household rating than the national average.
The competition – both on the field and on screen – will come as the Games begin in earnest. Just as the host nation often gets a measurable bump in the medal count (statistically, hosting will result in an average gain of 13 medals over the course of the Games), the TVB will be tracking to see if there is a “ratings bump” for those DMAs with hometown athletes participating in the televised event.
Thus far, there are only preliminary ratings available for the first night of competition, with very few medals on the line – and no direct athlete/ratings correlation. Former Olympic market Salt Lake City led the local primetime household ratings race with a 23.9, followed by a 22.8 in San Diego and a 22.4 in Kansas City (whose viewers may still be caught up in athletic fever after recently hosting the MLB All-Star Game). The first night of primetime competition delivered a 15.8 metered-market average rating overall.
Many have speculated that the ratings for the London Games will fall short of the peaks of the Beijing Games in 2008. But if the ratings for the Opening Ceremonies are any indication, these Games will set a new World’s Record for Olympic viewing by the time the last Union Jack parachute dims London’s Olympic Flame.