Royal Wedding Broadcast Expected to Break Viewership Records

On Wednesday night from 8-9 p.m. a special on NBC, Inside The Royal Wedding, was the fourth-highest-rated show, drawing about 5.2 million viewers, which was about a quarter of the number watching American Idol on Fox, half the number who watched Survivor on CBS and slightly less than the 5.2 million watching The Middle on ABC.

That may not sound like a very royal rating, but it cheered NBC, because it was an improvement over the 3.2 million who had watched the same time period the week before. And it in no way will dampen the spirits of the legion of global broadcasters who have descended on London to provide an unprecedented amount of multiplatform coverage for the nuptials of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton.

When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer nearly 30 years ago, an estimated 750 million viewed the ceremony. The event in Buckingham Palace scheduled for early Friday morning U.S. time will be seen live or in a delayed broadcast by more than 2 billion people, by most estimates, and by another 400 million online over YouTube, Google, Yahoo or on other sites.

Not only is this the first and biggest event of the digital broadcast age, it also is the most interactive media experience of all time because the royals have chosen to reach out to their audience through social media from a Facebook page to Twitter to various apps that will allow people to watch on their iPad or cell phone or other devices.

Google and its YouTube are the official providers of the live stream of the events, but lots of others on broadcast and online have climbed aboard the royal bandwagon as well.

Yahoo, for instance, has had more than 80 million people click from its home page to special pages dedicated to wedding coverage, and about 200,000 people have taken the trouble to sign their online guest book and provide comments for the royal couple.

“People are extremely interested,” says Jessica Jensen, vp of Yahoo Shine (the section aimed at women). “We have had an incredible outpouring of interest for Shine. We have already surpassed all records, and we’re sure tonight and tomorrow will bring new records.”

While Google has the official stream, Yahoo will have a live video stream as well, provided by ABC News, which in turn bought its rights from a British provider.

But who exactly is going to watch hundreds of hours of programs that will start Thursday night and run throughout the weekend and into next week on broadcast, cable and online? Based on who watched the shows leading up to the event, it’s the ladies.

“We put it on our women’s site because we believe women are naturally more interested in pretty dresses and fun events like this,” says Jensen. “We have seen a very, very wide age range from teens to older women but definitely skewing extremely female.”

The syndicated show Entertainment Tonight, which has sent a small army to cover the wedding, has already seen a boost it attributes to interest in the event. For the first three days of this week, which have been wedding heavy, ratings have been up 11% compared to the average for Monday through Friday the prior four weeks. That is a 4.2 rating (based on overnight results from Nielsen) compared to 3.8 the prior four weeks.

Yahoo drew 6 million unique visitors to its wedding site last month, which Jensen says was “very impressive,” but nothing compared to the past 10 days when, she adds, “it has just caught fire.”

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