Baltimore posts fourth-highest TV audience in the U.S. for inauguration

January 22, 2009|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,david.zurawik@baltimoresun.com

Baltimore provided one of the nation's strongest TV and online audiences for the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday, just as it did during the primaries, caucuses and debates last year.

Baltimore had the fourth-largest audience in the nation with 44.3 percent of all TV households watching live inaugural coverage between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday. That translates to about 487,000 homes.

The Raleigh-Durham market in North Carolina was the top audience with 51.2 percent of homes tuned to live coverage. Washington, D.C., finished second with 47.7 percent, while the audience in the Norfolk, Va., market came in third at 46.7 percent.

These were the preliminary ratings from the nation's top 56 markets where Nielsen Media Research maintains electronic TV meters. Among the 56 markets, the average rating was 29.2 percent. Final ratings for the 16 cable and network channels that carried live coverage are expected today.

The market with the lowest ratings was Seattle-Tacoma, where only 18.8 percent of the audience watched inaugural coverage. Overall, viewership was lower in West Coast cities.

According to early Nielsen estimates, ABC led all networks with 47.7 million viewers for its day of coverage, which ran from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CNN led all cable networks with 16 million viewers for its day and night of coverage Tuesday.

Online, The Baltimore Sun's Web site, baltimoresun.com, registered more than 1.5 million page views - about 25 percent higher than an average weekday. Yesterday's page view total was on pace to approach 2 million; the site's page view record for a single day is about 2.1 million.

Nationally, CNN.com tracked 182 million page views between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, as well as 36.7 million live video streams. That was a sevenfold increase since the previous high for CNN.com video streams - 5.3 million on Election Day.

After Baltimore ranked in the top three markets for viewership of the debates last fall, up significantly from the 2004 race, political and TV analysts said black viewers here and elsewhere were drawn by Obama's candidacy to national politics in a way not seen since the civil rights movement. The concentration of colleges, including historically black Coppin State and Morgan State universities, was also credited.

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