Millions of people worldwide watched the opening ceremony on television along with 80,000 in the Olympic Stadium.
BBC's coverage of the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony averaged 22.4 million viewers, or a share of 82.5 percent of all people watching TV in the U.K. at the time.
The viewership makes the Danny Boyle extravaganza one of the top 20 most-watched TV programs in British history, according to the Guardian.
The public broadcaster's audience for the 9pm-12:50am broadcast reached a five-minute peak of 26.9 million, which set a new record for at least a sports broadcast since the introduction of five-minute highs.
The BBC said the ratings were the highest opening ceremony ratings since at least 1992. That year, the Barcelona Games opening drew an average audience of 11.3 million (52 percent share, with no five-minute peak data available).
The Nielsen Company said that London's opener was the most-watched opening ceremony of any summer or winter Olympics. It topped the previous mark of 39.8 million people who watched the 1996 Atlanta Olympics begin, and the 34.9 million who watched the colorful first night from Beijing four years ago, in the US.
An estimated 5 million comments about the opening ceremony were made on social media, according to the research company Bluefin Labs. It was more interesting to women, apparently, as 58 percent of the comments were from women and 42 percent from men, Bluefin said
The London ceremony featured an unusual made-for-TV stunt featuring actor Daniel Craig portraying James Bond escorting the real-life Queen Elizabeth II to the ceremony and ended with Paul McCartney's anthemic "Hey Jude." But according to Twitter, the biggest spike in tweets came when actor Rowan Atkinson ("Mr. Bean") appeared in”Chariots of Fire" homage.
"This audience number for the London Opening Ceremony is a great early sign that our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in primetime is working. We look forward to the next 16 nights of compelling Olympic competition," says NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, actively mocking your desire for live coverage.
It was the most-watched television event in the U.S. since the winter, when 39.9 million people watched the Grammy Awards and 39.3 million saw the Oscars.
The results were a good sign for NBC and broadcast TV in general, which is increasingly finding that big events draw people to the screen more than regular entertainment programming - most likely encouraged by multi-screen experiences, or people conversing through social media while watching television.
However, NBC has been criticized for cutting the tribute to the victims of the 7/7 bombings in London, which featured Emeli Sandé singing 'Abide With Me'.
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