2017 Inauguration Ratings Up From 2013; Down From 2009

By A.J. Katz Comment

All eyes were on President Donald Trump yesterday, Inauguration Day 2017. A large number of those eyes were fixed on Fox News Channel, as it led the way on cable news in total viewers during prime time, total day, and during the sweet spot when Pres. Trump took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address: 12 – 12:30 p.m. ET.

CNN, the No. 1 cable news channel for Inauguration Day coverage in 2013 and 2009, ranked No. 2 across cable news this time around.

Almost 11.8 million viewers watched Pres. Trump take the oath and give his inaugural address on the conservative-skewing network. That’s a +794 percent improvement from the network’s coverage of Barack Obama’s second inaugural address, and a +114 percent improvement from Obama’s first inaugural address in 2009. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum anchored the coverage for Fox News.

CNN saw an +8 percent rise in total viewers this year compared to 2013, but the network posted a -60 percent drop in total viewers from 2009.

MSNBC’s coverage of the oath of office and the address was -35 percent from 2013 and -52 percent from 2009.

Altogether, 16.63 million viewers watched Pres. Trump take the oath and give his inaugural address across the “big 3” cable news networks from 12 – 12:30 p.m. ET. That’s a +147 percent improvement from 2013 (6.73 million) but a -3 percent fall from 2009 (17.06 million).

Here are the cable news numbers from when Pres. Trump took the oath of office and gave his inaugural address on Fri Jan. 20, 2017:

  • FNC: 11.768m total viewers,  2.992m adults 25-54
  • CNN: 3.375m total viewers, 1.208m adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.487m total viewers, 315k adults 25-54

For comparison, here are the cable news numbers for President Obama’s oath of office and speech from 2013 (11:45 a.m. -12:15 p.m.):

  • CNN: 3.136m total viewers, 1.107m adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 2.273m total viewers, 706k adults 25-54
  • FNC:  1.316m total viewers,  294k adults 25-54

Looking at prime time coverage of the inaugural balls – Each of the three cable news networks delivered growth from 2013 in total viewership, with Fox News predictably seeing the most (+318 percent). CNN grew +27 percent in prime time from 2013, and MSNBC grew from 2013 in prime time by +19 percent.

CNN and MSNBC were down in prime time viewers compared to Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 by -35 percent and -37 percent, respectively. Fox News, on the other hand, saw a +57 percent rise in total prime time viewers from 2009.

Prime time:

  • FNC delivered 6.958m total viewers and 1.766m adults 25-54
  • CNN delivered 4.528m total viewers and 1.392m adults 25-54
  • MSNBC delivered 1.621m total viewers and 395k adults 25 -54
  • HLN delivered 359k total viewers and 120k adults 25-54

Looking at total day, CNN grew +7 percent in total viewers and +8 percent in the demo relative to 2013. MSNBC was -7 percent in total viewers and -30 percent in the demo relative to 2013. Lastly, Fox News was +378 percent in total viewers and +493 percent in the demo relative to 2013.

Total day (3 a.m. – 3 a.m.)

  • FNC: 5.280m total viewers, 1.346m adults 25-54
  • CNN: 2.055m total viewers,  708k adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.018m total viewers,  248k adults 25-54

Next, the broadcast network numbers for Inauguration Day 2017. The time period measured is 10 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. ET.

  • NBC: 5.799m total viewers, 1.944m adults 25-54
  • ABC: 4.911m total viewers, 1.415m adults 25-54.
  • CBS: 4.564m total viewers, 1.153m adults 25-54.

NBC ranked No. 1 among the broadcast networks on Inauguration Day 2017, and it saw a +14 percent rise in total viewers and a +22 percent rise in A25-54 viewers relative to 2013, but a -44 percent drop in total viewers and -55 percent in the news demo relative to 2009.

ABC, which ranked No. 2, grew +7 percent in total viewers from 2013, but was -52 percent from 2009.

CBS, ranked No. 3, delivered more total viewer growth than NBC and ABC relative to 2013 (+24 percent), and showed the least drop off from 2009 (-35 percent).

The broadcast networks measured the 10 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. ET time period this year. They used the 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. time period for Inauguration Day 2013, and the 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET time period for Inauguration Day 2009.

Below are figures from the common coverage block (11 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET):

  • Fox News: 8.771m total viewers, 2.189m adults 25-54
  • NBC: 5.895m total viewers, 2.019m adults 25-54
  • ABC: 4.899m total viewers, 1.438m adults 25-54
  • CBS: 4.653m total viewers, 1.188m adults 25-54
  • CNN: 2.610m total viewers, 942k adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.377m total viewers, 309k adults 25-54
  • Univision: 1.363m total viewers, 632k adults 25-54
  • Telemundo: 739k total viewers, 300k adults 25-54
  • Fox Biz: 536k total viewers, 104k adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 314k total viewers, 91k adults 25-54
  • HLN: 144k total viewers, 68k adults 25-54.

Finally, according to Nielsen data, a total of 30.64 million people watched Donald Trump’s inauguration across 12 networks who aired live coverage from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. That’s +49 percent growth from 2013, but -19 percent from 2009.

20.55 million people tuned in to watch President Obama’s second inauguration on TV on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. While coverage varied by network that day, 18 networks aired live coverage from approximately 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET.

Pres. Obama’s first inauguration on Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009, drew a total of 37.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched since Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1981 (over 41.8 million viewers).

While viewership for 2013 was down 17.2 million people —or -46 percent— from 2009, it did hold pace with the drop-off that George W. Bush’s second term inauguration experienced on Thursday Jan. 20, 2005. In fact, viewership has historically slid for second term inaugurations. Pres. Richard Nixon is the only president in recent history that has seen an increase; he notched a +22 percent increase during his second term inauguration.

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