NBC’s decision to tape delay the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony resulted in the network’s lowest overnight rating for the event since Barcelona in 1992. Friday night’s OC received a 17.2 overnight number, 28% below the previous Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in London four years ago. While London was tape delayed for Primetime due to a five-hour difference with the East Coast, the Rio Opening Ceremony kicked off at 7 p.m. ET, but was still delayed by an hour in the Eastern time zone and two in the Midwest.

The Peacock said the overnight rating peaked at 19.0 when the United States entered Maracanã Stadium during the Parade of Nations.

For local markets, NBC does have one thing to hang its proverbial hat on, that four of the top-rated six markets are in the West where the delay was longest.

West Palm Beach — 18.5/31
Denver — 18.2/38
San Diego — 17.8/37
Washington, D.C. — 17.8/35
Salt Lake City — 17.3/36
Los Angeles — 17.2/36
New York — 17.2/32
Chicago — 17.0/33
San Francisco — 17.0/36
Fort Myers — 16.5/27
Richmond — 16.5/29

NBC contended last month that the decision to delay the Opening Ceremony by an hour on the East Coast was not only to add context to the theatrics, but also to add commercials where the network saw fit and not to cut too much out of the broadcast. But by delaying the Opening Ceremony until 8 p.m. ET and adding commercials and a feature on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, NBC padded the telecast of the Opening Ceremony  frontloading commercials with 8 ad breaks in the first hour and extending it past the original midnight ET sign off time to 12:27 a.m.

In addition, comments made last month by NBC Olympics Chief Marketing Officer John Miller and quoted by Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald about female viewers came back to haunt him Friday night:

The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one.

It led to plenty of outrage as anger about the tape delayed Opening Ceremony grew into a crescendo:

NBC Olympics Executive Producer Jim Bell told Tannenwald that by delaying the Opening Ceremony, the network could insert ads while keeping the bulk of the broadcast intact, but as the telecast was running past midnight on the East Coast, over an hour after it had ended in Rio, NBC did cut out several moments in the final hour that were seen by the rest of the world including speeches by the President of the Rio Olympic Organizaing Committee and legendary Kenyan distance runner Kip Keino who was honored by the IOC and the Olympic oaths leading up to the lighting of the cauldron.

So the Olympics in a time zone-friendly location has gotten off to a slow start. NBC hopes this will be the only hiccup as several big events are about to kick off this weekend.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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