Four hours worth of tape-delayed opening ceremony set a record (from 8p-midnight) with a 21.5/37 (household rating/share) in the preliminary Nielsen overnight ratings report.
Update: in terms of "record ratings", the record only applies to Olympic opening ceremonies where the Olympics were not held in the USA. See much more detail on the numbers, including top local markets here.
From our friend James Hibberd:
NBC has been chided for delaying broadcast of the ceremony until primetime while most nations aired the event live. Yet holding off may have actually aided the show in ways not anticipated by the network. With gushing critic reviews and lavish images saturating the media Friday, many viewers likely tuned in to see if the ceremony could possibly live up to the hype.
I confess to watching most of it myself. And while the parade of nations ran a little long (made a bit easier via slight time-shifting with the DVR) the opening itself was spectacular. 2008 Tai Chi masters in precision is pretty incredible to behold. I loved the scale of the production and how well it was pulled off. Extremely impressive!
Hibberd notes that the ratings of the opening ceremonies aren't necessarily a barometer of what the ratings for the events themselves will be (for more info going back to the 1968 summer Olympiad click here), but either way we're sure NBC is pleased.
I found some of NBC's promotion for the upcoming fall season amusing - especially as it was promoting stuff for the new, upcoming fall season and talking about it in terms of "new" and "fall season". Wait, we thought you didn't have a new fall season and were in "year round programming mode"! They may use new language for craptastic summer programming with the TV journos, but apparently NBC doesn't think its viewers are as stupid as most of the press it talks to. Given that NBC paid an reported $894 million for the US rights to these summer games, we knew it would use it to promote its shows. NBC also reports it has lined up more than a billion dollars worth of advertising across the whole event.
All the carping about how the significant tape delay of the opening ceremonies in the US sent the Internet crowd watching video by telling them where to find it on the Internet even if they had to install a proxy server on their computer to fake foreign countries into thinking they weren't actually from the United States of America...all of the people who claim Internet viewing is already eating the broadcast network's shorts (I'm looking at you, silly digerati) please.shut.up.now. KTHXBAI.
Check out the rest of James Hibberd's post.