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TV Ratings: Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio Falls From London 2012

While the energy was high during Friday night’s colorful Olympics opening ceremony, the television ratings took a disappointing 28% plunge from the last summer Games in London.

According to early estimates, NBC’s full opening ceremony between 8 and 11:30 p.m. posted a 16.5 overnight household rating (which should come out to about 30 million viewers), compared to 23.0 during London 2012 (40 million viewers).

The rating was the lowest for a Summer Olympics since the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Ratings peaked at a 19.0 when the U.S. team walked between 10 and 10:15 p.m. Because the teams were announced in Portugese, the U.S. group walked one hour earlier than in London, having a possible impact on ratings. NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell denied Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that NBC had pressured the IOC to announce the teams in English so that the United States could be one of the last countries to walk.

The numbers were far lower than the last Olympic Games, even considering Rio provided more convenient time zones compared to London four years ago or Beijing in 2008. The fall reflects an ongoing battle between live television and live streaming. NBC Sports calculates that it generated over 42 million streaming minutes — the second best every for an NBC Olympic stream behind the U.S.-Canada hockey matchup in Sochi.

The primetime block (8 – 11 p.m.) clocked in at a 17.2 overnight rating, and a 10.0 rating among the coveted 18-49 demo.

The opening ceremonies on Friday were criticized for showing too many advertisements, but the festivities, a mixture of lively and dark, kicked off with earnest stories, energetic dancing and an attention-grabbing walk from supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

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