How many people watched the royal wedding?

Some sources are predicting as many as 3 billion viewers

by Jaime Weinman

I for one will be interested to find out how many people around the world watched the wedding on the television box, and how many more streamed it over the internet tubes. A lot, obviously; that we know. It also seems to be a foregone conclusion that it will be more, probably a lot more, than the approximately 750 million viewers who watched the Charles/Diana nuptials. Some sources are predicting 3 billion viewers, and since my mind is not made to process numbers larger than the viewership of American Idol, I can barely fathom such a number, let alone whether it’s plausible. But this is a major television event, even if not a great deal happened.

We think of television as being more fragmented today than it was when Charles and Di got married, but to some extent that’s only true of scripted programming, where we can all choose the shows we want on the channels we want. Where a show offers something unique that cannot be duplicated – there’s only one Super Bowl, only (for now!) one English monarchy – combined with something a lot of people want to see, the numbers can be bigger than ever.

Update: Early reports suggest that the multi-billion viewer estimates were not plausible. It’s still big – thanks to the presence of more different channels all carrying the same event, the U.S. viewership surpassed the number for Charles and Diana. But it looks for the moment like the the 2-3 billion estimates from “British officials” may have been either wishful thinking or just a way of getting extra publicity in advance. It worked, too.

One thing that has changed a bit since the days of Chuck n’ Di: the coverage is much less frenzied. Really. I know that sounds strange. But the coverage of Charles and Di was the culmination of a long tradition of obsessive coverage of royal marriages, one that went back far enough that Cole Porter wrote a whole song in a 1932 Broadway musical making fun of it: “What will become of our England,” an English butler laments, “when the Prince of Wales finds a wife?” (The idea being that the Prince’s search for love – and every woman’s dream of marrying a prince – is the only thing the media cares about when it comes to England, and when he’s married off, the whole country is doomed.) The collapse of Charles and Diana’s marriage, and the backlash against the tabloids that followed Diana’s death, has caused the media on both sides of the ocean to be a little more circumspect: there’s still lots of talk about fairy-tale romance, but it’s tempered by a fear of going too far and hyping the marriage too much. This article in the Los Angeles Times explains it in a little more detail:

For the most part, the news media have been much more respectful of William, 28, and his privacy, striking agreements with the palace on photo ops and the extent of their encroachment on his life as a teenager, a university student and now a young man in military service.

“They’re very conscious of the fact that this boy is the son of Diana, and they don’t want to be unnecessarily offensive,” Greenslade said.

At the same time, the palace has learned how to run a tighter PR operation. The prelude to Friday’s wedding has been a master class in providing a slow drip-feed of information to the media (Today the identity of the cake maker! Tomorrow a look at the royal carriage!) while preventing major leaks. Only the royal household, the Middletons and their confidants know, for example, the true cost of the wedding or who designed the bride’s dress, which has become the object of almost fetishistic speculation.

Finally, I would be remiss in not pointing out that the saddest corporation during any royal wedding is the company that theoretically owns the movie Royal Wedding. It would be so incredibly exploitable, except that the film is one of the ones that fell into the public domain, meaning that anyone can show it on TV, release it on cheap DVDs or post it on the Internet. It’s not a particularly good musical anyway except for the famous dancing on the ceiling sequence (casting Winston Churchill’s daughter was a bad choice), but still, it is the ultimate royal marriage tie-in movie.




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How many people watched the royal wedding?

  1. Nobody can do medieval pagentry like the British.

    600,000 tourists for this apparently.

    • r.i.p to the souls that were lost in the us recently i send my love. despite the fact there are far more pressing things in the world right now, but its been an amazing day and the partys outside are still going strong :) im suprised at the comments of negativity and how people see their own monarchy as an outdated form of polotics and wealth, the royals make this country great from the time before recorded script, kings and queens ruled the world but overtime were abolished, well our royals are going strong and im proud to be british, they might not have a say in the running of britain but they still do so much for us all, to numerous to list, all you saddos enjoy some much needed celebrations.

      • If that's meant for me, I'm not a monarchist but I don't want any of that American nonsense either.

    • I live in the United States and my English teacher had the Royal Wedding on her laptop before class. We watched the tail end of it before we took a quiz. Americans love pomp and indescriminate spatterings of wealth- our elected officials just can't spend taxpayers' dollars on their weddings and we don't have a monarch who can spend oodles of money however he or she bloody well chooses- so we we watch the British. :)

      • Heh…makes for great spectacle though eh?

  2. People without tvs, people in noneuropean timezones unwilling to stay up, people who just don't give a damn, and they'd have us believe half the world's population decided to watch? No, it's not remotely a believable figure.

    • 2 Billion people watched Obama's inauguration, so yeah it's believable because it can happen.

      • Can you show a source for that?

      • No they didn't haha

      • Just because its on TV doesn't make it true

  3. We`d need a president, Berlesconi might end up disemployed,shall we ask him to move here and bring his bunga bunga parties to buckingham palace?

  4. the american system is flawed. We have some great history and world respect because of our monarchy! American puppet president in the UK. Pull the other one.

  5. Real great day for us British. Well proud. Flawless event and done with style. Well done to all involved and congrats to Wiils & Kate.

  6. Or maybe you could just move to a country that shares your opinion and allow the rest of us to enjoy the things that make us who we are.

  7. Certainly one of the most overrated events of the year.

  8. It's straight impossible. 1 billion, okay. 2 billion? Never. The fact, that this would mean that a bit more than every 3rd peson in the world watched it, is ridiculous. Think about the people in 3rd world countries. Think about all the countries, that were having nighttime during the ceremony (the whole american continent). It was also on a workday, a Friday. Those 2 billion are most likely meant to see some form of it on TV, but not as a live coverage.

    • Agree. Being a person with my own life, I won't give up one minute sleep to watch a celebrity wedding. But I am sure I will bump into it in the evening news.

    • Agreed. and I don't know why your statement has a negative rating since it is rational. it wasn't anywhere near 2 billion Working & attending school in one of the largest college towns and living in one the largest cities in America-there weren't many people who were interested. I think part of the media's sales pitch of the royal wedding was the 'everybody is doing it'. I am sure in a couple days an accurate estimate from the compiled ratings will emerge.

      • Pardon me, but America is not the world.

        There are 7 billion people on the planet….you are only a teensy part of it.

        Try not to be jeaous eh?

        • I actually watched the wedding, err… until I fell asleep at around 4, pacific time, cali. :)

          • Heh….I saw some of it around 6:30 this morning….saw the rest of it in repeat highlights.

    • 3rd world countries…..
      Let me enlighten you, as I live in SA. When you are driving through the slums of Johannesburg, or through the squatter camps all over SA, it is ironic to see that even though these people live in poverty, there is a dish attached to every second dwelling.
      So 3 billion? Totally plausible! 7 Billion world population at last check? That leaves 5 billion that doesn't have tv, doesn't give a rat's behind, was busy sleeping, working, studying, etc.
      Plus if a person records the live coverage, that is automatically tallied as a view.
      And there were almost a million spectators on site….
      Just saying :-)

  9. A splendid ceremony – elegant and tasteful yet filled with the pomp that such an occasion requires. I'm looking forward to the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge's visit to the "senior" overseas realm this summer!

  10. i say 2bill + because in all of the commonwealth their is 2bill ppl it was on 7:30pm NZ it would have been about 5:30 in aus

  11. keep in mind in other countries they meet up in the hundreds and at times thousands to watch one TV. For example in the Philippines when Manny Pac Man Pacquiao fights, EVERYONE is watching his fights. It's a day where businesses, cops, crime drops and no one is doing anything but watching the TV

  12. I am so very glad that wedding is over. I didn't want it, though I admit I watched about two minutes of the replay at night – and trust me, that was enough. Beautiful, yeah, I'm sure it was, like most weddings. But the pomp, the circumstance, the boredom, it was all there. Woohoo. I'm tired of hearing about it every night on the news, reading about it in Maclean's, and thank goodness it's finished.

    • Watch. I meant I didn't watch it. So I didn't proofread, but I know what I meant…

  13. We've been inundated and soaked with this giggly, gooey drivel for weeks on end. Could we PLEASE now let the 'royals' get on with their lives – and return to covering real news?

  14. You can guarantee that the 'woohooers' are those who are unable to appreciate true culture and history and will do everything they can to reinforce their own poor sense of relevance and importance. There are things that happen in this world that are on a scale that you will never understand; in a world that you can't even imagine. Don't blame the Royals for living the life they do. It's simply the fact that you're a simpleton. You'll be fine.

    The wedding was truly fantastic; from the dress, to the ceremony, to the cheering crowds. Westminster Abbey was set up with a simple, clean and elegant feel and it could be seen that William and Katherine are in love. All the best to them and I hope they enjoy their lives together and set the trend for the next generation.

  15. 2 billion people might not have watched all the Royal Wedding, but millions wd have watched parts of it on TV's or via the internet….the 2 billion no. cd easily be reached if people watched parts of it through various means.

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