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NBC Soars With Beijing Opening Ceremony

Just as there were 2008 drummers banging in the “Bird’s Nest,” NBC got off to a bang-up beginning with its Summer Olympics coverage from Beijing.

The Peacock scored an18.6 national rating/33 share for its Friday night coverage from Beijing, the best mark ever for a non-U.S.-hosted Olympic opening ceremony, topping the 18.1 rating/36 share recorded for the Rome Games during 1960.

The Aug. 8 performance was 27% above the 14.6/27 marked from Athens in 2004, according to Nielsen Media Research. Other opening ceremony marks from international venues: Sydney a 16/2/29 share in 2000; Seoul a 15.2/29 in 1988; and Barcelona a 13.8/29 share in 1992.

All of these pale in comparison to the 23.9/28 share for the opening ceremony of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, which earned a 23.6/45 on its first night.

Gauged on an average audience basis, the opening ceremony from Beijing Friday night notched 34.2 million viewers, compared to 27.3 million for Sydney, 25.4 million for Athens, 22.7 million for Seoul and 21.6 million for Barcelona.

The opening ceremony in Atlanta had an average viewership of 39.8 million; average viewership data did not exist for the aforementioned Los Angeles Games.

"The Olympic opening ceremony captivated the American public in unprecedented numbers for a non-U.S. Olympics," said Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, in a statement. "It was a magical and memorable spectacle and a great way to start the Beijing Olympics."

Additionally, saw its most traffic ever on Aug. 8 with 70 million page views, versus 7 million on the opening day of the Athens Games

All told, seven NBCU networks will air 1,400 hours from Beijing, with another 2200 slated for broadband and other platforms.