Biden Inauguration Drew Nearly 40M Viewers, Per Nielsen

Joe Biden Inauguration
(Image credit: Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)

NEW YORK—Nearly 40 million people tuned in to see the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the U.S. on Jan. 20, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen. Viewership was up over the 2016 inauguration of Donald Trump, though numbers fluctuated, particularly on cable news networks.

CNN was the network of choice for 10 million viewers, besting the broadcast networks and MSNBC and Fox News. That number represents a 196% increase over viewership from Trump’s inauguration. Nielsen also reported that CNN was the primary choice for coverage of the primetime inaugural celebration on Jan. 20. The news network has seen consistently strong ratings since Biden was elected, Nielsen says.

Despite not having the same size audience, MSNBC saw an even larger growth in viewership, with 6.53 million people watching the ceremonies on the cable network, a 338% increase from four years ago. MSNBC said it had its highest daytime ratings in its history for the inauguration.

Inversely, Fox News’ audience dipped 77% over the last inauguration, with Biden netting 2.74 million viewers of the network.

ABC led all broadcast networks with 7.66 million viewers (up 10% from 2017), followed by NBC’s 6.89 million (down 12%) and CBS’ 6.07 million (down 13%).

Overall, the top six networks’ audience was 4% larger than for Donald Trump’s inauguration.

These numbers are not a complete estimate, as Nielsen says that it is still counting people who watched on other networks or outside their homes.