An estimated 26.5 million people watched NBC's coverage of the Olympic opening ceremony, a sharp 35% drop from the record-setting viewership of the curtain-lifter in London four years ago, reports the AP. The opening ceremony of the London Games was seen by 40.7 million people in the US. NBC suggested Saturday that the gap will be narrowed when details about time-shifted viewing and people who streamed Friday night's telecast on mobile devices become available in coming days. "To compare linear TV viewership today versus four years ago isn't logical," an NBC Sports rep says. The four-year difference was much kinder to NBC last time around; the Beijing opening in 2008 reached 34.9 million people, per Nielsen. One of NBC's pre-games fears came true: viewership dropped off after the entrance of the United States team in the Parade of Nations. Because the Portuguese alphabet was used, the US team (Estados Unidos) appeared much earlier in the broadcast than is typical.
NBC also front-loaded many of its commercial breaks early in the broadcast so there were fewer during the Parade of Nations. Judging by the harsh social media reaction, that may have backfired. It was a culture shock to binge-watchers and time-shifters who have become accustomed to television without commercials. The ceremony also ran long, and wasn't helped by NBC's decision to air it on tape-delay so it started in prime time. The lighting of the Olympic cauldron wasn't shown until after midnight. A joke by Matt Lauer during the teams' entrance had a ring of truth: "Are we at Timor-Leste (East Timor) already?" he said. "Time is flying by." The London Games proved a smash success for NBC. Viewers may simply be less interested in the Olympics from Rio—and that won't become clear for a few more days. (Read more 2016 Olympics stories.)