Oh Canada: Vancouver Opening Ceremony Is Most-Watched For Non-U.S. Winter Olympics

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The opening ceremony from BC Place at the Vancouver Games burned very brightly for NBC with the Nielsens.

The Feb. 12 event, capped by a foursome of cauldron torch lighters, led by The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, saw 67.5 million viewers tune in some part of the opening ceremony to stand as the most-watched for a non-U.S. Winter Olympics in more than a half century of TV coverage, according to NBC officials.

That total was 17.3 million more than the 50.2 million for the 2006 Games from Torino, Italy and almost 6 million more than the 61.7 million who watched the start of the Lillehammer Games in 1994 on CBS. It was 4.3 million behind the total audience for the beginning of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

NBC averaged 32.6 million viewers with its Friday coverage of the Vancouver opening ceremony, which took an aesthetic hit when one of four pillars, scheduled to lift and join with the other three to form the base for the cauldron, remained inside its trap. That average was 47% greater than the 22.2 million who watched the opening ceremony from the 2006 Winter Games, according to Nielsen data. The Feb. 12 performance ranks as the most for a non-U.S. Winter Olympics opening ceremony in 16 years -- just below the 33.8 million for the tabloid-fueled Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding, Lillehammer Games.

The 17.3 national household rating/30 share on Feb. 12 improved on the 12.8 rating/21 share start for Torino -- six hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone --to mark the best beginning for a non-U.S. Winter Games since Lillehammer. NBC has guaranteed advertisers a 14.0 primetime average.

Other recent Winter Olympics outside the U.S. saw the opening ceremony for Nagano, Japan in 1998 draw a total audience of 52.4 million viewers for CBS, while Albertville, France in 1992 scored 46.7 million for Black Rock.

Not surprisingly, NBC put up big numbers with the last domestic Olympics, averaging 45.6 million viewers and a 25.5 rating/42 share with the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics from Salt Lake City in 2002. Some 71.8 million watched some part of that event.

Digitally, NBCOlympics.com registered 4.8 million unique users for the first day of the Vancouver Games, 469% higher than 861,000 on Day 1 from Torino. The site also delivered 1.9 million video streams -- 836% more than the 201,000 on Torino's first day, according to NBC officials.
As for the NBC Olympics mobile app was the No. 1 free app in the iTunes store, generating more than 2 million page views on Friday.
Gauged by metered market ratings, the Mountain Time zone ranked first with a 21.2 rating/36 share. The Pacific Time Zone, whose residents saw the opening ceremony on delay, averaged a 19.8 rating/36 share, compared with 18.9 rating/31 share and 18.6 rating /30 share for the Eastern and Central Time Zones, respectively.

The Top 20 Metered Markets For The Opening Ceremony:
1. Seattle, 25.9/47
2. Milwaukee, 25.8/43
3. Denver, 25.4/44
4. St. Louis, 23.7/40
5. West Palm Beach, 23.3/35
6. Cleveland, 23.1/38
7. Salt Lake City, 22.3/39
8. Columbus, 21.8/37
9. Ft. Myers, 21.4/ 34
10. Detroit, 21.1/34
11. Portland, 21.1/39
12. Providence, 21.0/36
T13. Richmond, 20.9/33
T13. Baltimore, 20.9/32
15. Sacramento, 20.6/38
16. San Francisco, 20.3/39
T17. Boston, 20.2/36
T17. Indianapolis, 20.2/34
T17. Nashville, 20.2/30
T20. Chicago, 20.1/33
T20. Buffalo, 20.1/33

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