AUGUST 12, 2008
(STAR) The colorful Olympics opening night ceremony in Beijing on NBC averaged 34.2 million viewers, making it the biggest television event in the US since the Super Bowl.

It was the biggest audience ever for an Olympic opening ceremony not held in the US, and even eclipsed this year’s Academy Awards and finale of “American Idol,” Nielsen Media Research said on Saturday.

The numbers were all the more impressive since it was a Friday night in August, when many people have better things to do than watch TV. If they do choose to watch TV, the number of options are growing year by year, meaning most television events typically go down in ratings.

The most recent summer Olympics, in Athens four years ago, averaged 25.4 million viewers for its first night, Nielsen said. Sydney in 2000 had 27.3 million viewers.

“It was a magical and memorable spectacle and a great way to start the Beijing Olympics,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics.

It was good news for NBC and its advertisers, particularly since there was concern Friday about computer users finding ways to access non-NBC video feeds and watch portions of the ceremony before it appeared on the network. Due to the time difference, NBC aired the ceremony in the eastern US 12 hours after it happened in China.

Instead, the tape delay may have helped NBC, allowing word of mouth to spread about the spell-binding ceremony, which featured an estimated 15,000 cast and crew members, many performing intricate dance moves with images that used Beijing’s new stadium as a backdrop.

NBC’s Olympics Web site didn’t air video of the event before it was shown on TV, but it and many other Web sites did post still pictures. NBCOlympics.com registered 70 million page views on Friday, its heaviest traffic ever.

NBC Universal said it was working with Olympics officials to make sure video of events for which NBC has exclusive US rights are not shown on other Web sites, network spokeswoman Kathy Kelly-Brown said.

Olympic authorities provide rights-holders with technology that prevents its coverage of Olympic events from being seen outside of their country. However, there were reports that the blocking technology didn’t work for Germany’s ARD network, allowing video to slip out beyond that country’s borders.

After opening night, NBC is less concerned about video getting out, at least for the first week of the games. NBC’s prime-time for the next week is concentrating on live events like gymnastics and Michael Phelps’ bid for swimming immortality. Many other events are shown live on NBC Universal’s cable networks or on NBC’s Web site.

However, the second week of the games may present NBC with more of a problem. It currently plans to air most track and field events on tape-delay in prime-time, allowing for the possibility that pictures will slip out early. - AP

GMA, Bush lead billion cage fans in US-China By Gerry Carpio Tuesday, August 12, 2008

BEIJING – The presidents of two countries occupied the choice seats Sunday night to witness what is probably the most-watched event of the Olympics outside the opening ceremonies.

Separated 10 seats apart at the Beijing Wuke song basketball stadium were Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and US President George W. Bush. The former is president of the only country where basketball is the no. 1 sport, while the latter is president of a country that developed basketball into a rich, high profile sport.

Bush, who was with his father, former President George Bush, and wife Laura, was of course cheering for Team USA, which stormed out of a close first quarter contest to win, 101-70, in their group elimination round match in basketball competitions.

Surveys here revealed the US-China basketball game was watched by over three billion audiences all over the world, half of that, of course, from China which has a population of 1.3 billion.

The President was there throughout like a passive onlooker, probably aware a clap for one team might be misconstrued by either of the superpowers, but First Gentleman Mike Arroyo had his loudest cheers for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James who turned the duel into a slam dunking competition in the third quarter.

“I can’t say which team the President was rooting for,” was the cautious reply of Philippine chef de mission Monico Puentevella, who had been with the President during her visit to the Athletes Village.

Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets star who is the most popular sports celebrity in China, produced one of the best games in Olympic history after Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao paid an unprecedented visit to the national team before the Games and expressed his personal concern over Yao’s foot injury.

“Everyone is proud. I felt great with all the flags and cheerings. It’s a great game, great atmosphere,” said Yao, who popularized what used to be a minority sport in a country where football is no. 1.

“It’s an emotional game, especially to China as they played in front of their people. This is a game full of meanings. We’re excited with so many people giving extra attention to the game,” said US player Chris Bosch.

The way the US has been playing, it was a tribute to China that it was able to lead the gold-medal favorite, even if briefly in the first quarter..

Both teams received a standing ovation when they left the court.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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