Tallying the Numbers: Web Video Rivaled TV for Inauguration Views

We’ve been collecting stats all week from news outlets and streaming providers about the audiences they received during the Obama Inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20. These numbers are necessarily imperfect, but it seems that web viewership of the proceedings actually rivaled that on TV. Whereas TV had on the order of 37.8 million viewers, web streaming providers reported on the order of 70 million views.

inauguration-stats

Some major caveats follow.

– TV audience is counted by viewer, whereas web audience is counted by view. That’s an unfortunate discrepancy, but it’s the data we have.
– Many web outlets had technical issues, which could have caused people to reload, and driven up their number of views. That’s borne out by advertiser Audi’s report that its pre-roll ad (which ran on CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and some text news sites) was seen nearly 70 million times.
– Broadcast TV viewership numbers are for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. specifically, while most web numbers are for the day as a whole. (Though the Nielsen aggregate numbers are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
– We don’t have numbers for CBS, Hulu, or the New York Times, though we have indications that their viewership was very high compared to previous live-streamed events. There are also certainly web streaming outlets that we didn’t count, as well as international watching that may not have been included in various measures.

In the weeks leading up to Inauguration Day, we tallied the available outlets and concluded that with a bevy of free online streams as well as the highly anticipated proceedings going on while much of the U.S. was at work, it seemed likely that the web video audience would hit a new record. That’s not necessarily borne out by all the numbers; for instance, content delivery network Akamai reported 5.4 million peak visitors per minute on Tuesday as compared to 8.6 million on the night Obama was elected in November. But that’s visitors, not video views. So it seems entirely possible that web video did set a new record.

Nielsen noted this week that Obama’s big day came in under the record most-watched inauguration, Ronald Reagan’s in 1981, which had 41.8 million viewers. But if you factor in the web audience, that’s hardly the case.


Thanks to the news outlets themselves, Nielsen, TVbytheNumbers, TVNewser, and Beet.TV for providing us with numbers.

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