London 2012 was ‘biggest ever US TV event’

NBC’s coverage of London 2012 was the “most-watched television event in US history”, the TV network has announced.

Citing Nielsen ratings figures, NBC said more than 219 million viewers watched the Games on its networks, compared to the 215 million who tuned in for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The network broadcast some 5,535 hours of Olympic coverage on TV and online.

But it drew criticism for delaying the broadcast of popular events until primetime hours.

Viewers also complained of problems with online streaming and edited versions of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sunday’s closing ceremony – which was cut down by almost an hour and omitted such acts as Muse and Ray Davies – drew an audience of 31 million people.

Yet NBC enraged some viewers by leaving the ceremony at 23:00 local time to air a new sitcom, Animal Practice, and then half an hour of local news.

At midnight, the network returned to the ceremony to screen the eight-minute finale by The Who.

NBC was previously criticised for cutting a tribute to victims of the 7 July London bombings out of its opening ceremony coverage.

NBC paid $1.18bn (£751.3m) for the exclusive US broadcast rights to the Games.

Meanwhile, the BBC said its coverage of the Olympics was watched by 90% of the UK’s population and that 51.9 million people had watched at least 15 minutes of coverage.

BBC One controller Danny Cohen said the Games had been seen by the “largest TV audiences since the pre-digital age”.