Donald Trump’s inauguration ratings were the second-highest in 36 years, according to Nielsen.
The swearing-in of the 45th president was seen by 30.6 million viewers across 12 networks.
The only inauguration over the last three decades that tops Trump’s number in the linear ratings? Barack Obama’s first inauguration back in 2009, which had a record-setting 37.8 million viewers. So Trump was down from the last new president to take office.
But before that, to get an Inauguration Day number this high, you’d have to go all the way back to Ronald Reagan in 1981, who was seen by 41.8 million viewers (Nielsen released tracking for inauguration ratings back to 1969).
Trump’s numbers are all the more remarkable considering he’s entering into office with rather low approval ratings compared to past presidents and sparked protests worldwide along with vows to not watch his inauguration.
And actually, Trump could have been seen by more viewers than either Obama or Reagan. Nielsen ratings do not account for online viewing, which has grown sharply in recent years and is far more commonplace than even four years ago. CNN.com, for example, clocked 16.9 million live streams, tying with its Election Day coverage for the site’s top event (live stream tallies are typically not apples-to-apples with Nielsen’s strict methodology of counting average viewers, but are still additive). Plus, portals like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter offered live streams as well.
In terms of linear coverage, Fox News topped all networks, averaging 8.8 million viewers for the day and peaking with 11 million viewers from noon to 1 p.m. This was the highest-rated inauguration coverage in the network’s history. While on broadcast, NBC was top ranked with 5.8 million viewers for the day.
Here’s a chart from Nielsen of Inauguration Day coverage ratings over the years. The column on the far right, “Persons 2+,” represents Total Viewers in millions, which is the most commonly used metric when measuring an event’s audience (in addition to the advertiser target demo of adults 18-49, which is not included here).