Nearly 37.8-million people watched Obama inauguration; but how many watched outside the home?
Nearly 38-million people watched Tuesday's inauguration of President Barack Obama, according to figures from the TV ratings company Nielsen Media Research, making his inaugural the second most-watched presidential ascension since Ronald Reagan's 1981 oath of office.
Of course, today's TV universe is markedly different than in 1981 -- back then, there were no cable channels, digital video recorders or Web sites to splinter viewing, with Americans forced to experience the inauguration through a limited range of platforms. Now, even though Nielsen's ratings include some recorded viewing through DVRs, several questions remain:
How many saw it online? Who watched it outside their home? And why -- in 2009 -- can't Nielsen give us reliable figures on those numbers?
My pal Lisa DeMoraes of the Washington Post as usual nails the point of all this with a delicious sarcasm. She notes that since Nielsen doesn't count people who watched the inauguration out of their homes -- including the viewing parties at theaters, college dorms and bars, the people at work AND most of the 2-million who watched it on giant screens on the mall -- the audience for the show was probably the largest in history.
CNN.com, which drew compliments for a partnership with Facebook allowing users to trade comments with friends while watching the noontime inauguration broadcast, said more than 27-million people used their site to watch the event, generating more than 140-million page views. A leading company in providing streaming video online, Akamai Technologies Inc. told CNN that 7.7-million people watched the ceremony at the same time. NBC said more than 16-million unique users visited its site Tuesday, accessing 9-million live streams for the day.
Because every major newspaper and TV news channel offered its own streaming video coverage, it will be difficult to assess just how many people worldwide viewed the event -- made an online magnet by Obama's popularity and the midday start time, which allowed people to check in from work.
But it seems obvious that it was the most-watched moment in online video history, setting records at big sites such as YouTube, the New York Times and CNN.com and slowing the Internet's Top 40 sites by as much as 60 percent, according to the Associated Press.
NBC claimed victory as the top broadcast network, drawing more than 12-million viewers during the noon hour and an average 8.6-million people over its seven hours of coverage, starting at 10 a.m. Overall, NBC News says more than 18-million watched its coverage over the network and sister cable channels such as MSNBC and CNBC.
Yet another generational turn in a presidency that seems to make history almost every day.