Inauguration Day Ratings: Biden’s Audience Beats Trump’s, CNN Tops All Television


Nearly 40 million viewers tuned in as President Joe Biden took the oath of office Wednesday, some 1.5 million more viewers than former President Donald Trump’s 2017 swearing-in ceremony, with CNN getting the most viewers out of all the networks – broadcast and cable – covering the event.

It was a record-breaking day for some of the networks. CNN saw its most-watched inauguration coverage in the network’s history, while MSNBC posted its highest-rated dayside hours ever. For the first time, ABC News’ special daytime coverage of the inauguration was the most-watched among broadcast networks.

From 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., during Biden’s swearing in and Inaugural Address, a total of 39.87 million viewers tuned in, topping the 38.35 million total viewers who watched Trump take the oath of office in 2017 (although neither Biden nor Trump came close to the 51.07 million who watched former President Barack Obama’s first swearing-in ceremony in 2009).

CNN had the most viewers during this time, according to Nielsen, with 9.99 million total, 3.51 million of them in the key demographic of viewers age 25–54. ABC had the second-most viewers, with 7.66 million total and 2.52 million in the demo. NBC, with 6.89 million total viewers and 2.34 million in the demo, was third, while its cable news counterpart MSNBC was fourth, with 6.53 million total viewers and 1.64 million in the demo. CBS had 6.07 million viewers during the half-hour swearing-in, with 1.44 million in the demo, and Fox was sixth, with 2.74 million total viewers and 521,000 in the demo.

Over the course of the day, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., all six networks averaged, in total, 29.47 million viewers, with 8.51 million in the demo. During comparable coverage in 2017, 27.08 million viewers tuned in for Trump’s inauguration, although again, ratings for both Biden and Trump pale in comparison to the 34.51 million who watched special coverage of Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

CNN was again first in viewers in dayside, with an average 7.74 million total and 2.71 million in the demo. ABC was again second, with 5.37 million total and 1.6 million in the demo. MSNBC was third, with 5.33 million total viewers and 1.25 million in the demo, while NBC was fourth, with 4.71 million total viewers, and more demo viewers – 1.52 million – than sister network MSNBC. CBS was the fifth most-watched during special daytime coverage, with 4.13 million total viewers, and 987,000 in the demo. Fox News trailed behind, averaging 2.17 million total viewers during the day, and 444,000 in the demo.

For most of prime-time, five of the networks aired the star-studded inauguration special Celebrating America from 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., while Fox stuck to its regular programming. CNN maintained the top spot during the special, with 6.68 million total viewers and 2.37 in the demo, and MSNBC had the second-most viewers, with 4.41 million total, and 1.21 million in the demo. NBC was third, with 3.86 million total viewers, and 1.26 million in the demo. ABC came next, with 3.66 million total viewers, and 1.08 million in the demo. Fox news was fifth, with 3.21 million total viewers and 561,000 in the demo. CBS had the fewest viewers during the special, with 3.04 million total viewers, although the network was ahead of Fox in demo viewers, with 769,000.

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