The state funeral of former President George H.W. Bush was watched by a television audience of about 17.5 million viewers on Wednesday.
The total is based on Nielsen data for the event across the four major broadcast networks and the three cable news channels Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. The figure does not include viewers who streamed coverage of the event online or smaller networks that may have carried the event.
NBC was the most-watched outlet for the ceremony at Washington National Cathedral with 3.79 million viewers, followed by CBS (3.4 million), ABC (2.95 million), Fox News (2.91 million), MSNBC (1.57 million) and CNN (1.47 million). An additional 1.5 million viewers watched Fox News coverage on the Fox broadcast affiliates.
State funerals are traditionally carried across all of the broadcast and cable news networks. Coverage for Bush ran roughly from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Bush’s services drew more viewers than the last state funeral for a former president. The ceremony for Gerald Ford averaged 15 million viewers on Jan. 2, 2007.
Ronald Reagan’s state funeral was seen by 20.8 million viewers on June 11, 2004. Reagan’s burial aired in prime time on the East Coast and drew 35 million viewers that evening.
Richard Nixon’s state funeral on April 27, 1994, was watched by 28.3 million households on ABC, CBS and NBC — about 30% of the country — when viewers had far fewer TV viewing options.
The audiences for televised presidential funerals tend to fall short of those for other major celebrities. Pop superstar Michael Jackson’s funeral was watched by 31.1 million viewers across multiple networks on July 7, 2009. The farewell for Princess Diana was seen by an audience of 32.2 million viewers in September 1997 despite its early morning airtime in the U.S.