From Broadcasting & Cable:

The final viewer tally is in, and a total of 37.8 million watched the inauguration of Barack Obama according to Nielsen, the most since Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural in 1981, which drew 41.8 million.

The combined overall household rating for the inauguration in Nielsen’s top 56 metered markets was 29.2%.

That puts Obama way ahead of the second inauguration of George W. Bush four years ago. That inaugural was among the least watched at 11.8% in the top markets with a mere 15.5 million tuning in.

From TVWeek comes the breakdown for the networks:

NBC beat ABC and Fox as the most-watched broadcast network in the hour leading up to and including President Barack Obama’s inauguration oath and speech. CNN topped the cable networks during the oath of office.

During 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. EST Tuesday, NBC drew 11.5 million viewers and scored a 4.0 rating among adults 25-54. ABC followed in a close second with 11 million viewers and a 3.5 rating, and CBS rounded off the broadcast networks with 7.2 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the demographic.

For the extended daytime coverage between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, NBC averaged 8.7 million viewers, along with a 2.8 rating in adults 25-54 and a 2.3 in adults 18-49. During the same time period, ABC averaged 8.4 million viewers, a 2.6 rating in adults 25-54 and a 2.3 in adults 18-49. CBS placed third with 5.5 million viewers, a 1.6 and a 1.4, respectively.

CNN also performed strongly compared with the broadcast networks, outranking CBS in both the time periods above. From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST, CNN had 7.3 million viewers and a 2.4 rating among adults 25-54. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, the news network averaged 5.8 million viewers, a 2.1 rating among adults 25-54 and a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49.

CNN edged out other cable news networks for the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST midday coverage, drawing 6.9 million viewers compared to Fox News Channel’s 4.4 million and MSNBC’s 2.6 million.

For the half hour that included President Obama’s swearing in and address, CNN had 8.5 million viewers, Fox News had 5.5 million and MSNBC had 3.1 million.

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Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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