NBC's coverage for the first night of Olympic Competition has set a new record, so the network claims. The Saturday, July 28 broadcast, which saw Ryan Lochte defeating Michael Phelps in a swimming showdown, pulled in an average of 28.7 million viewers to make it the most-watched summer Olympics opening night.
The number tops the first night of the 2008 Beijing Olympics (24.0 million), and the 2004 Athens Olympics (19.8 million). Additionally, it is almost two millions more than the audience of the first competition night during the 1996 Atlanta Games (26.3 million), which previously held the record.
The opening ceremony on Friday also drew a big rating for the network. An average of 40.7 million people tuned in the event directed by "Slumdog Millionaire" helmer Danny Boyle, though people have complained about NBC's decision not to air the opening ceremony live.
The network also delayed the coverage of key competitions, prompting angry fans to express their disappointment on Twitter. One of those who criticized the gaps in the TV coverage was Piers Morgan. "Laughable that America is yet to start watching the Olympic opening ceremony on TV. Seriously," the CNN host wrote on July 27.
James Poniewozik of Time magazine also tweeted, "NBC tape delay coverage is like the airlines: its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for." Responding to the backlash, NBC's executive producer of the games, Jim Bell, stated, "You do know that all sports events are being streamed live right?"