Obama by the Numbers

Life itself paused as viewers flocked to their TVs and the Web

Barack Obama's inauguration made history, on television and certainly on Websites, some of which got so backed up that their live streams were not streams at all.

Here are some of the numbers:

  • Almost 37.8 million viewers watched TV coverage of the inauguration (10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET on Jan 21) on 17 broadcast and cable networks, according to Nielsen. Only Ronald Reagan's inauguration in 1981, seen by 41.8 million TV viewers, was rated higher. But Reagan didn't have live streaming.
  • NBC was the most-watched network on Jan 21 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. —the portion of the inaugural event that included the entrances, the oath and President Obama's speech—averaging 11.4 million viewers. ABC averaged 11 million viewers. CNN edged out CBS, 7.3 million to 7.19 million viewers.
  • On cable, where coverage was wall-to-wall, CNN led. From 6 a.m.-3 a.m. CNN grabbed 3.9 million viewers (compared to 1.2 million viewers during George W. Bush's first inaugural in 2001). Fox News was watched by 2.5 million (compared to 1 million in '01), and MSNBC averaged 1.6 million (compared to 697,000 that same year).
  • On the Web as of 3:30 p.m. on inauguration day, CNN.com had generated more than 136 million page views and CNN.com Live had more than 21.3 million live video streams, making it "the most viewed live video event in Internet history," the network said. The Internet demand was so intense that CNN.com placed users in a "waiting room" to manage capacity. That dwarfs the network's previous record of 5.3 million live streams on Election Day.
  • Twitter's inauguration feed reportedly had nearly 100 posts per second. Facebook, which partnered with CNN to link its live video streams with chat, reportedly logged more than 1 million status updates, averaging over 4,000 updates per hour. During President Obama's inaugural speech, that number zoomed all the way up to 8,500 updates per minute.
  • FoxNews.com had about 5 million live streams for its inauguration coverage, also a network Web record.
  • According to content delivery network Akamai Technologies, about 7.7 million video streams, most of them live, were being delivered at about 12:15 p.m., when Obama was speaking. That makes the inauguration the most-watched event in the history of live Web video. Akamai handles Web traffic for more than 150 news sites worldwide.