Paralympics boosts U.K.’s Channel 4

Curtain-raiser wins 40% share

LONDON — The opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games attracted one of the biggest ever audiences in Channel 4’s history.

The much-praised curtain-raiser, held at the Olympic Park Wednesday, and climaxing with an appearance by soul siren Beverley Knight signing “I Am What I Am,” won an average 7.6 million viewers, a 40% share.

This was more than four times the web’s average audience for a Wednesday night.

At one point, for five minutes between 8.45 p.m. and 9 p.m. local time, the audience peaked at 11.2 million.

The Paralympics’ opening ceremony left Channel 4 in the unusual position of being the most watched channel for the night in Blighty.

Web achieved a 25.7% share of primetime viewing, compared with 16% for BBC1 and 11.1% for ITV1.

Channel 4’s chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, said: “Last night’s opening ceremony was a spectacular start to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and I’m delighted that so many viewers enjoyed it with us. It kicks off 11 days of great sporting coverage on Channel 4.”

However, there was criticism of the hefty number of commercial breaks, all the more noticeable because the BBC’s Olympics coverage was free of commercials.

Some disgruntled viewers took to Twitter to complain about the constant interruption of the live event by ads.

While Channel 4 is state-owned it competes for ad coin with other private U.K. broadcasters.