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January 22, 2021

TV audience for Biden's inauguration surpasses Trump's, despite sharp decline among FOX News viewers

Politics Television
Biden Inauguration Audience Beats Trumps Robert Deutsch/USA Today

President Joe Biden's inauguration attracted 40 million televisions viewers, compared to the 38 million who watched former president Donald Trump's ceremony. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance was extremely limited.

Around a million and a half more people watched President Joe Biden's inaugural address on TV than had viewed former president Donald Trump's speech four years ago. 

All totaled among the major cable news networks and the three main broadcast networks, nearly 40 million people tuned into see Biden's address on Wednesday, compared to Trump's 38.3 million viewers in January 2017, the New York Times reported. That's 4% increase according to preliminary data from global market research firm Nielsen.

While the only way to watch Biden's ceremony was on TV or online because of COVID-19 restrictions, in 2017 between 300,000 to 600,000 people attended Trump's inauguration, according to Vox

CNN had the largest share of the inauguration TV audience, drawing 10 million viewers between 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., nearly a 200% jump in viewership from 2017's inauguration, the Hill reported.

FOX News had 2.7 million people watching its coverage — the fewest viewers among the major networks and a 77% decline from the 12 million people who tuned into FOX News to watch Trump be sworn in in 2017, Time reported.

This preliminary data does not yet include streaming service statistics, meaning the ratings were likely higher. Nielsen is set to release its final figures in the next few days that will include some streaming data and out-of-home viewing, such as at restaurants or hotels. 

Neither Biden and Trump's inaugurations attracted as large an audience as former president Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration did. More than 51 million people watched Obama's address in 2009. 

The rest of Biden's inaugural festivities amassed an audience of 29.4 million people between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., compared to Trump's 27 million viewers during the same time in 2017.

Biden's prime-time inaugural special, "Celebrating America," hosted by Tom Hanks and with performances by Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Jon Bon Jovi and Katy Perry, was watched by 21 million viewers.


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