I am a regular viewer of ‘The Royals’ on E! and recently binged seasons one and two of ‘The Crown’ on Netflix. In elementary school, my friends and I woke up one morning at dawn to watch Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. I also sat glued to the coverage of her funeral a few years later. Given that viewing history, perhaps it’s no surprise that I also woke up silly early a few weekends ago to watch the Royal Wedding. But could my viewing be so on trend as to account for the other 29.2 million people who tuned in?
By any measure, airing something that 29.2 million Americans (according to Nielsen), want to watch – on a Saturday morning at 7am Eastern – is impressive. Sure, the wedding’s numbers were dwarfed by the Super Bowl (103 million) but it was watched by more viewers than the Oscars (26 million) and it did double the season finale of one of last year’s highest-rated shows, the viewing phenom “Game of Thrones” (12 million).
In the US, Harry and Meghan’s wedding outperformed Charles and Diana’s 1981 wedding, when I was one of just over 17 million people who watched – on a broadcast network, in the era before cable. It even outperformed William and Kate’s wedding back in 2011 – that wedding brought together an audience of 23 million.
Meghan and Harry’s wedding aired live on 15 networks in the US, and when live streaming viewership is added to the mix, the number is sure to rise dramatically. YouTube alone reports 11.2 million people streamed the live coverage, with 1.32 million watching simultaneously, making it the fifth most popular live stream ever on the service.
It was a slightly different story back in the UK – more Brits watched William and Kate’s wedding than Harry and Meghan’s. Across all the networks in the UK, just under 18 million people watched the nuptials, as opposed to William and Kate’s wedding at over 19 million viewers.
Meghan and Harry probably have a number of things to thank for the jump in viewership stateside. The American actress-turned-duchess was a star on the USA Networks’ show “Suits” – which also happens to be the network’s highest-rated show. Meghan also represented a new kind of royal bride – a biracial divorced actress.
The wedding coverage also had the feel of an American awards show, with invited guests walking toward the church like an awards show red carpet, announcers identifying talent/guests – and their clothing labels. Oprah and Serena Williams were among the invited few, as well as George and Amal Clooney, Victoria and David Beckham, TV royalty including late-night host James Corden, and most of the cast of “Suits.”
ABC sent GMA’s Robin Roberts and David Muir to cover the event. CBS sent Gayle King. NBC sent Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, also Al Roker and Natalie Morales. News and entertainment-oriented networks such as CNN (Anderson Cooper) and E! (Giuliana Rancic) also covered the nuptials. The BBC hired former ABC and NBC news reporter and host Meredith Vieira to serve as an “expert” on America.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding had all the elements for a great TV event – part award show, but with some historical significance thrown in there, with elements of surprise and plenty of excitement. Judging by the viewership numbers, America agreed.