WASHINGTON — Nearly 20.6 million people watched Monday’s presidential inaugural festivities on network television, a drop of 46% from the 2009 event, which drew nearly 37.8 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings.
The fall-off was consistent with audiences for other second inaugurations: in recent history, only President Nixon has enjoyed more television viewers for his second swearing-in than his first.
The viewership figure reflects the average number of people who tuned to live network coverage from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET to watch President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony and parade. Nielsen does not track online streaming, or most television viewers outside the home.
Monday’s audience was larger than the one that tuned in for President George W. Bush’s second inauguration, which was watched by 15.5 million people. Bush’s first swearing-in drew 29 million viewers.
The largest television audience for an inauguration came in 1981, when 41.8 million people watched Ronald Reagan take the oath of office.