According to preliminary Nielsen numbers, the inauguration of Ronald Reagan 28 years ago was seen by a larger percentage of US households than this week's Barack Obama inauguration. But are we really comparing apples to apples. "Preliminary Nielsen estimates show that 29.2% of U.S. households were watching the presidential inauguration -- easily the largest in decades but below the 37.4 household rating for Reagan. Obama's figures include viewership on roughly 15 broadcast and cable networks, while the Reagan ceremony was viewed only on ABC, CBS and NBC; also, they do not include the huge online viewing this time around, with CNN.com, FoxNews.com and MSNBC.com all reporting record streaming video traffic." And what about sites like Hulu that also carried the stream. While I am confident that number of online viewers is minimal relative to the other outlets, the aggregate of video coverage should be counted in order to make a fair comparison between 1981 and 2009's inauguration.
But I am surprised that the Obama inauguration figures were not higher. Still it ranked higher than most others. With so many places to watch this historical day, it will be interesting to see what the final numbers indicate.