Opening ceremonies set Canadian TV record
Broadcast officials say 13.3 million Canadians watched the ceremonies
Ratings were also strong in the United States
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The broadcast of the Olympics' opening ceremony was by far the most-watched TV event ever in Canada, with more than two-thirds of the country tuning in at some point, according to the broadcast consortium.
About 13.3 million Canadians watched all of the three-hour ceremony, eclipsing the previous record of 10.3 million for the gold medal hockey game at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the consortium said. It said about 23 million Canadians watched some part of the show, which aired across Canada in English, French and several aboriginal languages.
The ratings system in Canada has changed in recent months, but the consortium said the change did not affect the Vancouver-Salt Lake comparison. The peak viewership came at the moment the Canadian team entered BC Place Stadium, when 15.6 million Canadians -- nearly half the country -- were watching, it said.
The consortium is a partnership between CTV Inc., Canada's largest private network, and Rogers Media. It outbid the government-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corp., which had broadcast the five previous Olympics.
Ratings were also strong in the United States. The Nielsen Co. said an estimated 32.6 million people watched the opening ceremony on NBC, up 48 percent from the 22.2 million who watched the first night of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
NBC, which expects to lose money on these Olympics, paid $820 million for the U.S rights. The consortium hopes at least to break even after paying $90 million for the rights in Canada, which has about one-tenth the U.S. population.
"There is no doubt the recession has had an impact on sales in all avenues, including television," consortium president Keith Pelley said in a statement provided to The Associated Press on Saturday.
"We are off to a strong start with record-breaking audiences and look to build on that momentum," he said. "We will continue selling right through to the end of the games."
The end of the games could bring another round of huge ratings to the consortium if, as Canadians hope and expect, their powerful men's hockey team reaches the gold-medal game on Feb. 28. Some commentators have suggested even the Canadian government would shut down to watch that match.
A reviewer for The Canadian Press, a nationwide news agency, watched the opening ceremonies on both CTV and NBC.
CTV's coverage "was visually appealing and a solid effort," wrote Bill Brioux. "But better commentary gave American counterpart NBC the gold medal for coverage."
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