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LONDON – BBC1’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.
That made the ceremony the most-watched TV event of the year-to-date in the U.K. and meant the biggest Olympics opening audience in Britain in at least two decades. The BBC also said its average audience also was the highest since 1998.
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 U.K. public broadcaster’s viewership for the opening ceremonies for the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Summer Games averaged 8.7 million (41 percent share, with a 10.7 million peak) and 5.1 million (51 percent, 5.9 million), respectively.
Other recent five-minute audience peaks for sports events on TV included 23.2 million British viewers for last month’s Euro 2012 soccer tournament match between England and Italy, and this year’s Wimbledon final between Scotland’s Andy Murray and Roger Federer, which attracted 17.1 million.
The BBC said the previous five-minute high came during a Euro 2004 match between England and Portugal that hit a 23.9 million peak audience.
Meanwhile, more than 1 million people watched the opening ceremony online at bbc.co.uk/sport, according to the broadcaster.
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