How many people REALLY watched the Royal Wedding? Analyzing the ‘estimates’ and cutting through the hype

Prince Wiliam and Kate Middleton kiss at Buckingham Palace, shortly after being married and named the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. How many people watched the royal wedding? Let's cut through the hype.

The New York Times estimated that 3 billion people (give or take 500 million) watched the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Really? Come on.

Let’s imagine for a minute that we’re “giving” 500 million to that number, which would mean 3.5 billion watched it — last I checked, there were just about 7 billion people on the planet, which would mean literally 1 out of every 2 people spent their Friday morning watching a wedding.

There’s a quick and easy way to prove that’s not true: Poll 20 people. Did 10 of them watch it? No. Even my girlfriend, who LOVES weddings, didn’t get up at 6 a.m. to watch.

America, who left England’s rule to get away from royalty 235 years ago, was strangely interested but not as much as the media would have you believe. Only 22.76 million Americans watched the wedding, according to Nielsen TV ratings. For frame of reference, “American Idol” is averaging 25.9 and 24.0 million viewers this season — at the height of its popularity three or four years ago, “Idol” averaged 35 million.

NME reports that, even in the UK, only 24.5 million people watched on terrestrial broadcasts. Including Internet coverage, that number is still less than 34 million — and this is in the only country that should care about the royal wedding, since it’s their prince and princess (or duke and duchess, whatever). More British people watched Princess Diana’s funeral, and even the 1966 World Cup.

Okay, so if we’re going to come anywhere close to 3 billion people worldwide, it’ll have to be from international Internet streaming — times have changed since the last royal wedding, and you can’t rely on TV ratings to get an accurate estimate of live events like this anymore.

Akamai, which provides approximately 20% of the Internet’s streaming traffic for 300 news sites like MSNBC, saw about 5.4 million viewers per minute at its peak. The 2010 World Cup averaged twice as much.

Granted, a lot of people did watch and the royal wedding did occupy all of Friday’s trending topics on Google, Twitter and Facebook — but it didn’t “break” the Internet, like Michael Jackson’s death did. Perhaps the media was leading the conversation too much, trying to convince people that what they were reporting on was an accurate representation of what their audiences actually cared about. Fox News even desperately wrote an article giving three reasons why you “should” care about the wedding.

When’s the last time someone told you that you should care about something actually made you care about it? People can make up their own minds to decide what they care about.

Ironically, a New York Times poll said only 6% of Americans truly cared about the royal wedding — the same source that estimated 3 billion people watched the ceremony. Lesson? Don’t believe the hype, and take everything you read with a grain of salt.

Note: I did, in fact, watch about 45 minutes of the wedding — including the weak first kiss. The horse-drawn carriage afterwards was fairy tale-esque, but let’s face it. At the end of the day, it was just a couple who met in college getting married.