More than 33 million people in the United States watched Princess Diana’s funeral Saturday morning, based on national results issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.
The estimate is based on an eight-network total, from 3-5 a.m. Pacific time, for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and cable channels CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and E! Entertainment Television.
Ratings were not available on a national basis for other cable channels that covered the event, such as A&E; and C-SPAN, and also do not take into account results on independent stations such as KTLA-TV Channel 5.
Nielsen figures show that at least 86% of homes watching television during those two hours Saturday tuned into the funeral. CBS had issued a preliminary projection that roughly 50 million people watched, which would include anyone who may have seen a few minutes of the coverage.
By way of comparison, the funeral’s combined audience exceeded last season’s average for television’s top-rated prime-time show, “ER,” at 30.8 million viewers per week. Nearly 88 million people viewed the Super Bowl in January, TV’s top-rated event last season.
Breaking down the coverage by network, NBC attracted the largest audience, followed by ABC and CBS. CNN--despite being available in less than three out of four homes nationwide--out-rated Fox for fourth place.
Assembling ratings for Diana’s funeral, meanwhile, forced Nielsen to delay issuing prime-time results for last week. The company said it had to channel resources that normally go toward processing prime-time data into generating a number for the early-morning event.
“Everybody wanted it right away, [and] everybody wanted it faster than we normally produce it,” Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said. Ratings for last week will now be published Thursday.