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.

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

  1. Don’t be such a hater. Almost everyone I know has seen the Royal Wedding & I don’t think the NYT was reporting on JUST the people who watched it live as it happened. I think they are reporting on all the numerous replays that happened until Noon on Friday as well.

    • Geoff,

      Though I don’t share your view, I none the less read your article. I appreciate you backing up your views with research, however, I am of the oppinion that perhaps more could have been done…

      You do not appear to consider, in your view, the world beyond the UK & USA, and simply sum it up thus; “this (*UK) is in the only country that should care about the royal wedding.” This is a very bold, and I suspect incorrect assumption.

      For example, The Commonwealth accounts for over 2 billion people, circa 30% of the world population, in 54 states, all of whom broadcasted the Royal Wedding. It should also be noted that a Reuters study found that within the Commonwealth, 78% liked the role of the Monarchy in the Commonwealth. There is circa 1.6 billion you overlooked.

      I feel you may have formed your research around your predefined view rather than allowing for a balanced debate.

      Just my opinion Geoff.



  2. Thanks for cutting through some of the hype Geoff – even taking into account average households I can’t fathom how 3 billion (latest figure being thrown around) people could possibly have watched the royal wedding.

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  4. The general figure being given here in the UK is about 24 million people watched the wedding – which means that 36 million did not. We are not all obsessed with the royal family or the wedding; in fact, most of us couldn’t care less. And don’t think that the recession has made us any more bored with the whole thing either; it’s just a tedious throwback to days of empire and when the ruling class controlled most peoples’ lives – those days are, thankfully, long gone.

      • You’re funny bob. Obviously.

        Unfortunately Geoff you’ve fallen victim to the ‘At the end of the day’ phrase. It’s EVERYWHERE.

        Just to note: Maybe people are ashamed they watched it. or, more likely, 3 billion people could have caught minutes of it at some point in the day.

        Unless they live under a rock I do think it’s possible to get in/around that number. It was on 11 different channels, most of which major networks, most of which already have high viewing numbers.

        Agreed it was probably a bit exaggerated, or rounded up, but everyone does it from time to time. What’s the big deal if the number of people viewing a wedding is off? We’re not voting on anything, and it’s a tradition. A fancy schmancy tradition, with hints of romance and old school class that’s missing from a lot of society today.

  5. and this is in the only country that should care about the royal wedding, since it’s their prince and princess?
    You’ve forgotten about Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados (to name the popular ones) As Queen Eliabeth II is head of state of 16 independent sovereign states as well as the figure head of the commonwealth of nations (54 countries). Prince William is expected to inherit both roles. I think the figures of 2 billion is highly possible.

    • It was not a prince and princess, it was just a prince and wife, this is because kate was not actually given a title at the wedding, she is only the duchess because of william. the queen is the only person that has any right to give titles in england anymore, this is one of her only powers she has left, and she takes pride in it. This means that when people with a title dies she puts that name away, and gives it out to someone else later on, or for the next monarch to assign.

      • What a load of crap……. you need to learn about how Monarchy works or whether you understand British History. In the UK Monarchy a wife of a Prince automatically becomes a princess…..duuuuuhhhhhh dont think that needs any explanation………… However Catherine did NOT want nor probably did the Royal household want a Princess Catherine as it did not ring right but the Duchess of Cambridge DID…….. She is Officially know as HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE but also known as HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF CAMBRIDGE……. Weather or not anyone disagrees with this is subject to royal approval? But understand that we in the UK see her as Kate???? (Catherine) who married our unmarried SON of the worlds greatest Princess that ever lived Princess Diana…………We see that he loves her and only her and he will protect her as best as he can from the world that so wants to see what move they make what sound they make and what clothes they wore……………..the eventual thing that killed his mother

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  7. What a negative piece. No offence, but it doesn’t really surprise me that an American doesn’t quite understand the admiration and obsession the world has for the British Royal Family.

    First of all, those viewing figures are never correct (eg. it isn’t take into account that over 750,000 were watching the Royal Wedding on the one big screen in London’s Hyde Park, plus approx. 1,000,000 watching on big screens across UK cities).

    Even so; 24.5 British viewers + 22.76 American viewers + 5.4million online viewers = 52.66million viewers in just 2 countries and 20% of online streaming.

    And like J said; The British Monarchy is also the head of state for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and 13 other nations. Just Canada reports 12million viewers, while China report 30million and 23% of Japan watched the wedding – with a population of 128million that means 29.44million watched. That’s just 3 more countries.

    When you then consider all of Europe, Scandanavia, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Africa and Oceania and the other 80% of internet streaming I’m sure it might look a little closer to 3billion than you think.

    If over 750million watched Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 and over 100million watched Princess Anne and Mark Phillips’ wedding in 1973, does it really seem that unrealistic that, 30 years after the last major Royal Wedding, over 3billion would watch Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011?

    And also… it isn’t “just a couple who met at college getting married”, it’s the future King and Queen to the most famous Monarchy in the world and in history, a Monarchy that less than a century ago was head of state to a one quarter of the world. Not to mention that it was the wedding of the oldest son of Princess Diana – the most famous, iconic and loved Princess I think there has ever been.

    • British people and their self importance/glorification! you gotta lol to that. must it take you lot to tell everyone else how the rest of the world and most especially Americans are obsessed about your royal stuff? To me, that smacks of a desperation of wanting attention on the global stage. even worse, it’s a subtle display of an inherent inferiority complex within the British psyche, to the extent that, when a minute fraction of Americans show the tiniest bit of attention to the UK, it’s a cause for celebration.

      “Hurray!, the Yanks think about us!”.
      Truth is, you lot are the ones rather obsessed with America and what it thinks of Britain, otherwise, you wont be about on how America love your accent, and your monarchy and all that crappy nonsense.


    thats just my opinon though

  9. I don’t know anyone among my friends or coworkers who watched the royal wedding. I think that the actual numbers are more like 750,000,000. Definitely not more than a billion. Most people I spoke with did not care about it.

  10. No offense, but i think you are completely wrong Geoff. I have been brought up in the US and the UK and have a parent of each, and even though i class myself as american, as i have spent most my life here, i am some what envious of the British. They have something in the royal family which most people can’t understand, especially most americans. The royal family has provided long term stability for their nation, a beacon of light in so many times of need and distress. Sure, in the US we have celebrities, and pop stars, but the royal family provides national cohesion to britain and are a symbol of hope. We havetried to imitate their royal family with the kennedys, or numerous other fmailies, but the simple truth is that it just isn’t the same. I can honestly say I do not know of one person who didn’t watch the wedding in the UK. Sure, I know you may have heard news reports like, the british don’t care, or seen interviews with people from the UK who say they aren’t interested. But that is something else that americans don’t really understand, that is just the way the british are. We as a nation are in some ways over celebratory, the british are not. They complain, moan and never say a nice word about britain. Thats just the way they are, the same way we celebrate and revel in americas glory, the british are very reserved. I know of loads of people who said in the build up to the wedding in the US that they weren’t interested in it, but when the day came, i asked every single one of them, and they all said they watched it. It is a world event, and like it or not, it is one of very few events which is truly global. The irony is, that even you yourself watched it.

  11. Viewing data English speaking countries suggests only 5 percent of the countries which the Queen is head of state watched , her role is quite funny actually , speak to any Canadian politicians , especially in Quebec , even in Australia the current female PM wants to abolish the monarchy after Elizabeth dies.

    Those who comment here negatively are British like I , however they are hanging on to past glory and have to accept the UK is an insignificant small European country now , USA-China-India-Russia-Brazil -Japan are the real power brokers in the world now , China and India each day grow immensely wealthier and their militaries do too. In fact when Obama visited India , his desire was to see India as the military power in the world after the USA capable of invading developed countries , China and India both have hypothetical planned invasions of Europe in place to shield from European imperalist.

    The year is 2011 – USA , China , Japan are the top 3 economies , Germany is the European leader. UK is falling back each and every second. Unlike my other fellow citizens i accept the truth and am a citizen of the world also.

    • Emily, is that the same canada that just restored the royal title to their armed forces and 300 thousandturned out so see prince william and princess william. Your a typical sour faced republican.

  12. Oh please – Super-powers, Japan like Germany will never have nukes or a vast armed force, India relies on a heavily led industrial economy and like China 90% of population live in abstract poverty and America is 50 times bigger than the UK with a population seven times larger.

    To put things into perspective, yes the UK doesn’t have the heavy industrial strength it once had because its cheaper to go to China,India etc. What it does have is the largest defence company in the world (BAE) 2 of the top 5 Pharmacuetical companies & 2 of the top 3 oil companies, along with numerous global financial & insurance power houses and a variety if service driven organisations, and though smaller in size one of the most advanced arm forces in the world which yes is still a global player and after US has biggest defence budget of any Western power, its about strength not length when it comes to Milatary…..

    So hmmm such an insignificant dying nation must really be up the shitter, i doubt that very much, Europe would be screwed if UK left EU, the French wouldn’t get their ‘farm subsidies’ and all the eastern bloc countires would cripple Germanys power…… Thank God were not in the Euro!

    Oh and the Wedding was lovely!

  13. I watched it.. it was like 2 am my time or so… I started watching from the beginning of the coverage on youtube. I am the average woman, mid 30’s. I was a little girl when Princess Diana got married, and I wasn’t going to miss it. I am not a royal watcher, I am not even a gossip mag reader.. but I watched all of it… and remember it was replayed… so those who missed it could watch it again…

  14. When they say 24.5 million people watched are they counting the number of tv’s tuned in? there is usually more than 1 person watching each tv.. how on earth can anyone know how many people actually watched it unless they asked, checked and confirmed the number of people watching each tv in each house? how do you know i didnt have my friends leave their tvs on, come round to mine and then all of us watched it on 8 tvs in 1 room? how many viewers is that?

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  16. Thank you, I have recently been looking for information approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the best I’ve found out till now. But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you certain about the source?

  17. Simple math
    India <1,2bilion people
    China <1,4 bilion people
    Africa <1 bilion people
    Latin America <400 milions
    So when u count its about 4bilions of people

    On the Earth lives 7bilions so 7-4=3
    So whole europe,north america,thailand etc. must have watched the wedding
    Sry but no

  18. 12 million people in Canada watched??
    I find it hard to believe that over 1/3 of the population of Canada watched a wedding on TV.

  19. Sooo American Idol has an average of 25 million viewers, thats a peak time when a shite load of people are settled and had their dinner, the Royal wedding has almosty 23 million Americans watching it at 6am (the latest time 2am the earliest).

    I rest my case…

  20. It’s late and I had some wine so I hope I can get my simple point across.

    I think the wedding was beautiful and filled with kindness. I love the whole fairytale bit of this ..almost like magic to me. Sounds silly I know especially since I am not even from their country – in USA …. but dealing with day and night of bad news for years, this is so beautiful to me. My life is sorta cruddy and yet these two made me smile for a bit that day and all days past that when I see them. I worry for them though and pray they stay solid and supportive of each other. God I am 23 and they have to deal with millions watching their every move. I doubt it’s a picnic that’s for sure. They make a sweet couple! :) I loved them giving me many moments to dream again when life isn’t so dreamy…

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