TV ratings: Trump inauguration sinks 18 percent from Obama's in 2009


Throughout his candidacy, Donald Trump prided himself on his ability to draw a TV audience as he sparred with others during debates. Now, as president, we'll see if the hot streak continues when he's just talking to the camera.

The executive producer of The Apprentice was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday afternoon. Wall-to-wall coverage of the extensive festivities reached an average 30.6 million total viewers across the 12 broadcast and cable networks that went live for much of the day. That's 18 percent down from the nearly 38 million viewers who watched President Barack Obama being sworn in as No. 44 in 2009.

After taking the oath with his hand on the Bible, Trump addressed the crowd. He spoke of how the "forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer" and of making America many different varieties of adjective again.

Among individual networks, Fox News Channel led with its coverage of the GOP leader. (It was also the only network up from 2009.) NBC News finished No. 2 and topped all of the broadcast set.

Read more: TV Ratings: Inauguration Week Offers Stephen Colbert a Healthy Boost

Topping 2009 was a lofty goal, but beating the most recent inauguration was easy. Second-term festivities, quite predictably, never have as much appeal as the first go around. And 2013 saw Obama average 20.6 million viewers. (That was the most for a second swearing-in since Bill Clinton's in 1997.) First-term comparisons are considerably more competitive. The 2009 inauguration saw an average 37.8 million viewers watch between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, with an estimated 25.5 percent of U.S. households watching. Ronald Reagan, the last entertainer turned politician to take the highest office, did so with 41.8 million viewers tuned in — and a whopping 37.4 percent of households.

From the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. window, cable net averages from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News sat at 16.63 million total viewers.

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President Donald Trump's inaugural parade
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President Donald Trump's inaugural parade

U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron walk during the inaugural parade from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Pool)

Washington D.C. motorcycle police lead the inaugural parade for U.S. President Donald Trump after he was sworn in at the Capitol (background) in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) waves to supporters as he walks the parade route with first lady Melania Trump during the Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump was sworn in today as the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The family of US President Donald Trump arrives at the reviewing stand at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2107 following swearing-in ceremonies on Capitol Hill earlier today. From (L-R): son Barron, son Eric and wife Lara, daughters Ivanka and Tiffany and daughter-in-law Vanessa (extreme R).

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Newly inaugurated U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks out the window of his limousine during the inauguration parade in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

The U.S. Army band "Pershing's Own" marches in the parade carrying U.S. President Donald Trump following his inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he and his wife Melania walk during the inaugural Parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in earlier as the 45th President of the United States.

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

U.S. President Donald Trump waves from inside his limousine as he participates in the inaugural parade after his swearing in at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Ivanka Trump walks with her son Theo during the inaugural parade in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2107.� US President Donald Trump on Friday stepped out of his limousine along the inaugural parade route, briefly walking on Pennsylvania Avenue and waving to supporters with his wife Melania and young son Barron. Earlier, the president drove past a crowd of protesters chanting anti-Trump slogans and waving banners.

(DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and son Barron walk during the inaugural parade from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Pool)

US President Donald Trump stands with First Lady Melania Trump at the Capitol Building before departing for the parade after Trump is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/John Angelillo/Pool)

Supporters cheer as the presidential limousine drives up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House surrounded by security detail after inauguration ceremonies for US President Donald Trump on January 20, 2017 in Washington,

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump waves to supporters as he walks the parade route with first lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump past the main reviewing stand in front of the White House during the Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump was sworn in today as the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump walks his wife Melania surrounded by Secret Service officers outside the White House as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Marchers take part in the inaugural parade of U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th President of the United States.

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

The family of US President Donald Trump arrives at the reviewing stand at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2107 following swearing-in ceremonies on Capitol Hill earlier today. From (L-R): First Lady Melania Trump, son Barron, son Eric and wife Lara, daughters Ivanka and Tiffany and daughter-in-law Vanessa (extreme R).

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump's Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Ben Carson arrives to take his seat for the inaugural parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th President of the United States.

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen wave as they arrive in front of the White House for the presidential inaugural parade on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry arrives for the presidential inaugural parade in front of the White House on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC. Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of atmosphere at the Presidential Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Participants march in period costume during the inaugural parade following U.S. President Donald Trump's swearing in at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump salutes as he presides over a military parade during Trump's swearing ceremony in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

A view of atmosphere at the Presidential Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

US Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis arrives for the presidential inaugural parade in front of the White House on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC. Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the Uniited States.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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Inaugurations have always been marquee TV events, though sometimes not as much as some of the campaign events — debates and conventions, most notably — that lead up to them. The 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush averaged 29 million viewers. The first term of Bill Clinton's presidency started out with 29.7 million viewers for his 1993 swearing-in. George H. W. Bush's was more modest, with 23.3 million viewers, in 1989. And Jimmy Carter, another one-termer, reached 34 million viewers.

One factor to consider when comparing 2017 to 2009 is the rise of steaming over the last eight years. Trump's inauguration likely got a substantial lift from digital views, albeit one that could not nearly compensate for the overall losses from Obama's nearly record-setting ceremony.

On the ground, Trump seemed to be a considerably smaller draw than Obama was eight years ago. Though there have been no official statistics on inauguration attendance, aerial shots of the National Mall show swathes of empty space where an estimated 2 million crowded in 2009.

Read more: Inauguration Day: Trump Draws Far Smaller Crowd Than Obama

Trump heads into office with historically low approval ratings, just 40 percent favorability — per the Washington Post and ABC News. Still, there isn't as much of a correlation between pre-inauguration approval and the number of people who watched as one might think. Yes, Obama and Carter pulled their strong inauguration ratings on the heels of historically high approval ratings — 79 percent for Obama and 78 percent for Carter — but inauguration record-setter Reagan's approval was relatively low at the start of his two terms. His was given favorable marks by just 58 percent of polled Americans.

Early indicators for Trump festivities were modest. Thursday's inauguration eve concert, headlined by band 3 Doors Down and "Who's Your Daddy?" singer Toby Keith, grossed 6.6 million viewers across the three cable news networks carrying it. Fox News Channel viewers were the most keen, accounting for 4.5 million of the total crowd.

It also should be remembered that Trump was not the only object of coverage on Friday. Adjacent protests, a ramp-up to Saturday's Women's March on Washington, were frequently showcased during the traditional Inauguration Day pomp and circumstance.

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