TV audience for Biden inauguration tops Trump's viewership four years earlier

US President Joe Biden delivers his inauguration speech after being sworn in as the 46th US President on Jan 20, 2021.
US President Joe Biden delivers his inauguration speech after being sworn in as the 46th US President on Jan 20, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Roughly 40 million people watched live coverage of Democrat Joe Biden's inauguration as US president on six TV networks, according to Nielsen data released on Thursday (Jan 21), a 4 per cent increase over the number that tuned in for Mr Donald Trump's swearing-in four years ago.

The figure covers the 30-minute span starting at 11.45am EST on Wednesday (Jan 20), when Mr Biden took the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address from the US Capitol.

It includes the audience on broadcasters ABC, CBS and NBC and cable channels Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

In 2017, about 38.3 million people watched Republican Trump's inauguration and speech on those networks. The swearing-in of Democrat Barack Obama in 2009 as the first Black US president drew 51.2 million viewers.

Mr Biden, Mr Obama's vice-president, became the 46th US president on Wednesday in a ceremony that included performances by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks.

Ms Kamala Harris made history as she became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice-president.

The TV viewing figures do not capture people who tuned in via digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that streamed the event live, or others who watched on television at places outside of their homes such as bars and restaurants.

Updated figures are expected in the coming days.

CNN, owned by AT&T Inc, led all networks with nearly 10 million viewers of Mr Biden's ceremony. Walt Disney Co's ABC finished second. Fox Corp's Fox News Channel ranked last among the six major networks with 2.8 million viewers.

The ranking reflected a reversal from four years ago. Fox News, which is popular with conservative viewers, topped all networks for Mr Trump's swearing-in with 11.8 million viewers, an Inauguration Day record for a single network. CNN ranked fifth at the time with 3.4 million.