Despite heavy criticism from viewers due to commerical breaks and overbearing commentary, the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic games managed to become the highest-viewed Olympic opening ceremony of all time, with a record 40.7 million viewers, 23 overnight rating and 40 share.
NBC's broadcast of the ceremony faced a bit of adversity: a tape delay kept American viewers from seeing the ceremony in real time, and with illegal internet streaming, viewers could have jumped ship and watched along with the rest of the world (though there were only a few bootlegging sites that streamed the ceremonies).
This viewership turnout beats the previous record (39.8 million for the 1998 Atlanta-set Olympics) by almost a million, and beats 2008's Beijing Olympics viewership, which clocked in at 34.9 million.
NBC did net its fair share of criticism from viewers of the broadcast, in part because of its decision to not stream the opening ceremony live. "It was never our intent to live stream the Opening Ceremony or Closing Ceremony. They are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large prime-time audiences that gather together to watch them," NBC said in a statement.
If you think that sounds a little insulting to your intelligence, you're not alone. "So you got that? Watching a live stream of the opening ceremony could be confusing and possibly even hazardous," the Los Angeles Times quipped in response to NBC's statement. "Better to let the pros handle it for you."
The opening ceremony was directed by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, and featured several staples of British culture, including Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, James Bond (Daniel Craig), Mr. Bean, "Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen Elizabeth II, and Sir Paul McCartney. Fans listening closely might have also heard the distinctive sound of the TARDIS from Doctor Who.
The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will continue until August 12.