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President Biden’s inauguration draws 33.8 million TV viewers, beating Trump’s ceremony

Inauguration of Joe Biden
Scenes from the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
(Los Angeles Times)

President Joe Biden’s inauguration was watched by 33.8 million TV viewers Wednesday, topping the average for Donald Trump’s ceremony in 2017, according to Nielsen data.

Biden’s total was 10% higher than Trump‘s inauguration, which was watched by 30.6 million viewers.

It’s likely that Biden’s numbers got a boost due to more people being at home and available to watch as the COVID-19 pandemic is still keeping many workplaces and schools closed.

The figure is an average for six hours of coverage spanning 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern. More than 40 million viewers watched Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris take the oath of office from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Eastern.

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CNN has its most-watched day ever as some pro-Trump viewers looked away.

CNN — on a torrid ratings streak since election day — had the most viewers with an average of 7.9 million from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. followed by MSNBC, (5.32 million); ABC (5.2 million); NBC (4.6 million); CBS (4 million); and Fox News (2.3 million).

Biden’s event was also carried by WGN America, Telemundo, Univision, CNBC, PBS, Fox Business Network, BET, BETHer, Newsy and CNN en Español.

For CNN, it was the most-watched inauguration ceremony in the network’s 40-year history. Fox News had the most viewers for Trump’s inauguration coverage with an audience of 8.4 million in 2017.

CNN averaged 5.4 million viewers over the entire day on Wednesday, which ranks sixth overall in its history. Six out of CNN’s 10 largest daily audiences have occurred since the 2020 presidential election, making it the most-watched cable network overall in that time span.

The total audience for Biden’s inauguration fell below the 37.8 million viewers who watched Barack Obama’s first swearing-in ceremony in 2009, which was the highest since 41.8 million viewers watched Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.

Dana Bash, Jake Tapper and Abby Philip
Dana Bash, Jake Tapper and Abby Philip in Washington during CNN’s coverage of President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

Biden’s audience total is higher than the first-term inaugurations for Trump, Bill Clinton in 1993 (29.7 million), George W. Bush in 2001 (29 million viewers) and George H.W. Bush in 1989 (23.3 million).

There is no official tally of people who watched on various streaming platforms that carried the event. CNN said the video stream of its coverage peaked at 12 p.m. Eastern with 2.2 million users watching Biden’s inaugural address, slightly lower than the all-time high of 2.29 million who watched Trump’s inaugural address in 2017.

CNN said 15 million unique digital users around the world tuned into some portion of its inauguration coverage.


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