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Big Numbers Expected for Inauguration

It was darn near impossible to miss swearing-in of the 44th president of the United States if there was a TV or computer on within earshot. The inauguration of Barack Obama was carried not only by the big broadcast networks, but across cablers such as ESPN, MTV and BBC America.

The coverage on KNBC-TV in Los Angeles yielded pristine hi-def images over the air, with few of the types of technical embellishments that often overwhelm sporting events. The cameras frequently cut to the massive crowd on the National Mall, where an estimated 2 million people gathered to be part of the day’s events. There were several made-for-TV moments, including the swearing-in itself, when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts goofed the recitation and Obama waited for him to start again. Another was the performance of “Air of Simple Gifts” by Yitzak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill and Gabriela Montero, who took the modern classical piece into jazz improve territory. The YouTube video of the performance has had more than 25,000 views in less than 24 hours.

Nielsen will issue overnight ratings for the networks later today, but online numbers have already emerged. The Wall Street Journal capital bureau blog reported that streaming video numbers broke previous records for CNN and MSNBC. CNN was said to pony up 25 million video streams between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. yesterday, peaking at 1.3 million during Obama’s address. MSNBC logged 14 million views by 1 p.m. EST. Fox News reported 5 million views between 6 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM), the Cambridge, Mass., content delivery provider, said the inauguration generated the most simultaneous streaming videos in the Web’s history. Akamai said that about 7.7 million mostly live video streams were viewed at around 12:15 p.m. EST, when Obama gave his inaugural address.