British royalty logged some princely ratings on Friday morning: Nearly 23 million Americans tuned in to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot, according to Nielsen.
In Britain, however, fewer viewers tuned in than for the wedding of Prince William’s parents, Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles. The royal ceremony was also the sixth biggest online event in history, after several sports tourneys and the U.S. 2010 mid-term elections, according to Akamai Technologies.
Nielsen reported late Saturday that live viewership of the ceremony from 6 a.m.-7:15 a.m. ET averaged 22.76 million viewers across broadcast and cable networks ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, E!, TLC, Univision and Telemundo.
Most nets began coverage at 4:00 a.m. as royalty and its guests began entering Westminster Abbey, with fashion and gossip coverage dominating the hours before the ceremony began.
The wedding during the 6-7:15 a.m. time frame averaged a combined household rating of 16 and a household share of 54, meaning that roughly one in six homes had a television on watching the event, while more than half of all TVs on at the time were viewing the ceremony.
Nielsen estimated that 18.58 million households tuned in, compared to 14.2 million for the July 1981 wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles, which aired from 5-10 a.m. ET. Friday’s nuptials rated below Charles and Diana’s in the U.K.
In the U.K., viewership on main nets BBC1 and ITV1 peaked at more than 24 million — not as big as the audience that tuned in for either Prince Diana’s funeral in 1997 (32.1 million) or the World Cup soccer final between England and West Germany in 1966 (the record holder at 32.3 million).
Viewing peaked between 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. local time as William and Kate made their vows, according to ratings body BARB.
BBC1, BBC1 HD and the BBC News channel attracted a total of 19.2 million people during that period, a 67.2 audience share.
Commercial web ITV1 said its coverage attracted 5.9 million during the same period.
Across the BBC, including online, a total of 34.7 million people tuned in to watch some part of the wedding, with more than 1 million Brits using its VOD service, the BBC iPlayer, to catch the coverage.
CNN reported an average of 1.66 million viewers from 4 a.m.-10 a.m., with 714,000 viewers in the adults 25-54 demo. The net said these were its best total viewer numbers for the period since the morning after the 2008 presidential election.
ABC averaged 6.15 million viewers over the six-hour coverage period, with an average of 8.65 million during “Good Morning America” from 7 to 9 a.m.
In addition to the live coverage of William and Kate’s walk down the aisle, more than 20 million U.S. viewers turned out for the wedding highlights specials that aired Friday in primetime on ABC, CBS and NBC.
(Steve Clarke in London contributed to this report.)