President Obama continues to be the biggest drawcard in US apart from the Super Bowl. He’s certainly a bigger drawcard than Fox TV’s American Idol.

The broadcast of Obama’s inauguration saw a very significant development; the Cable TV news service, CNN, had more viewers than CBS, a leading broadcast network and easily beat its cable rivals (which would have upset Fox News and Rupert Murdoch).

Nielsen Media Research said 37.8 million viewers in the US watched Tuesday’s coverage of Obama’s inauguration — the most since Ronnnie Regan was sworn in in 1981.

In contrast, on Tuesday night, just over 22.7 million people watched this week’s edition of American Idol on Fox. Obama’s audience was 27% higher than Bill Clinton’s audience in 1993 and 30% larger than George Bush’s in 2001. Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981 drew 41.8 million viewers, in a much smaller population.

Obama’s inauguration was broadcast on 17 Free To Air and cable networks, measuring the number of viewers who watched from 10am until 5pm. The swearing-in ceremony itself spiked viewership considerably just after noon when he was actually sworn in for the first time. The Nielsen ratings do include online viewing, which was significant (viewers watching the inauguration broke streaming video traffic records for, and with an estimated 7.7 million people tuning in that way.

If you include the online audience then over 45 million watched the inauguration.

The ratings show that NBC News topped competitors. From 11 am 12:30pm, at the height of the ceremony and Obama’s inaugural address, it had 11.5 million viewers, followed by ABC (11 million) and CBS (7.2 million). From 10am to 5pm, NBC averaged 8.7 million, followed by ABC (8.4 million) and CBS (5.5 million). CNN averaged 8.5 million viewers between noon and 12:30pm. That compares with 5.5 million for Fox News Channel, and 3.1 million for MSNBC.

The ratings showed that during Obama’s swearing-in at noon US East Coast time, the three cable news networks alone delivered an audience of 17.1 million, including 8.5 million on CNN.

Nielsen’s ratings do not measure viewing in offices, schools and other public locations (like here in Australia).

According to US and UK reports, Obama’s inauguration saw around 11 million Germans watching on the half-dozen channels carrying the event. In France, half the evening’s TV audience-more than 7 million people-watched. In Britain, the BBC said 5.1 million people tuned in for the inauguration while 6.5 million watched the highlights on the BBC’s 6 pm early evening news.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th president of the United States seems to have been a pretty unqualified hit with the Australian media. According to analysis by Media Monitors, “unfavourable” coverage accounted for less than 6% of the Australian press articles analysed, with more than 50% favourable.

Obama was also a hit on Australian talkback radio:

Issue Talkback
Obama inauguration 1493
Tour Down Under 129
Australian Open tennis 97
BHP closes Ravensthorpe 83
Recession fears 51
Gaza 40
Bushfires 17
Guantanamo Bay 17
Nancy Bird Walton 17
Harry Nicolaides 11

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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