Channel 4 claims its coverage, which aired on its flagship channel and 4+1, reached a peak audience of 11.2 million – its biggest audience in more than 10 years. By contrast, the peak audience for the BBC’s coverage of Beijing’s Paralympic opening ceremony in 2008 was 2.8 million.
The average audience across Channel 4’s four and a quarter hour show was 7.6 million, which marked a 40 per cent share of the entire television audience yesterday evening.
Some viewers however, did complain on Twitter about the amount of advertisements shown during the programme, having been used to watching ad-free coverage of the Olympic Games on the BBC.
Brands advertising during the programme included Lloyds TSB, Dolmio, Vauxhall, EDF and official sponsors of Channel 4’s coverage BT and Sainsbury’s.
A Channel 4 spokesman defended its decision to run ad breaks, saying it carried fewer minutes of advertising than usual during peak time and that as a commercially funded public service broadcaster, advertising was crucial to help fund its bid to broadcast the Games.
He adds that Channel 4 took the decision to only run ads when there were natural breaks in the ceremony.
The coverage of the opening ceremony overran for more than an hour, with the programme that was due to finish at 11.20pm running well past midnight. It is not yet clear whether any ad breaks were cut short or dropped altogether as a result of the late-running programme.
Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s chief creative officer, says: “Last night’s opening ceremony was a spectacular start to the London 2012 Paralympic Games and I’m delighted that so many viewers enjoyed it with us. It kicks off eleven days of great sporting coverage on Channel 4.”
Channel 4 told Marketing Week earlier this month that advertising slots around the Paralympic opening ceremony were “sold out”.
The broadcaster hopes it coverage of the Paralympics and corresponding marketing activity will help shift mainstream attitudes towards disability.