Of the average total size of the audience of 31.1 million people who watched the Michael Jackson Memorial Service yesterday—across 19 networks—about 16 million watched it on cable TV channels, according to Nielsen Media Research. The remaining audience—just over 15 million people, watched the memorial on one of the broadcast outlets, be it ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or one of the Spanish-language broadcasters.
The exact broadcast numbers will be released tomorrow.
On the cable side, in the battle between the all-news cable networks, CNN had an average audience of 5.3 million viewers, Fox News Channel had 2.2 million viewers, and MSNBC had 1.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
Of the cable entertainment channels, BET and E! were neck and neck with 761,000 average viewers and 757,000 average viewers, repsectively. MTV was next with 685,000 average viewers, followed by VH1, with 446,000 average viewers. Another 180,000 average viewers tuned into the TV Guide Network.
In an historical comparison, according to Nielsen, Ronald Reagan’s burial in 2004 drew 35 million viewers, and Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 drew 33 million average viewers. Of course neither of those events drew the millions of live streams on computers that Jackson’s memorial drew.