The Rally to Restore Sanity's Revolution... in Viewership Patterns

Last Updated Nov 3, 2010 2:26 PM EDT

Remember back when sanity was -- however briefly -- restored? No, wait, that was days ago. But, seriously as the "Rally to Restore Sanity" is eclipsed by that other event that happened in Washington, we should stop for a moment and look at how the Rally did -- not as a way of engaging the middle-of-the-road voter, but as a media event. According to data compiled by TV by the Numbers and Mashable, it showed an interesting, well, compromise, showing big interest on both TV and digital platforms.

Here's the statistical skinny:

  • The program, which ran from noon to 3 p.m., had a total of two million viewers on Comedy Central, and 2.4 million discounting the noon to 1 p.m. pre-show before Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert took the stage.
  • Stewart's closing remarks -- the ones in which he momentarily got sincere -- had a TV audience of 2.7 million.
  • Not surprisingly, it was also a 362 percent ratings gain over whatever dreck Comedy Central usually shows on a Saturday afternoon.
  • On the digital front, 570,000 people streamed it online.
  • More than 800,000 people visited sites associated with the Rally.
  • There were 120,000 tweets concerning the event on the day it was held.
  • It set a record for the number of badges unlocked on Foursquare, at 25,000.
  • In two days, 117,000 people downloaded the official Rally app.
  • To get completely analog, it's been estimated that 250,000 people actually physically showed up. (Interestingly, this was a figure quite similar to the 227,000 people on Facebook who said they would attend the Rally.)
To me, the most interesting thing to look at is the live streams vs. the TV viewership -- almost 19 percent of those who watched it didn't watch it on TV. And this wasn't DVR delay, which we know is now a big enough factor to substantially change the ratings of shows, but live viewings. Why was this so? I think a couple of factors were at stake:
  1. We can safely assume that the "Rally to Restore Sanity" audience is also a technically savvy audience. Though much was made about the number of baby-boomers who attended, this was primarily a young person's event both in terms of attendance and viewership. It has a 1.2 rating among adults 18-34, a pretty high mark for a Saturday afternoon (or morning, for the left coast).
  2. The streaming number includes mobile devices, ranging from the iPad to Android phones. Though the streaming figures don't say what percentage of streams were on mobile devices, it was probably pretty high. Yes, one reason is many people don't sit home on a Saturday afternoon; another major factor is that many attendees of the Rally couldn't see or hear it. The perfect time to whip out the iPhone and get a picture of what's going on.
But the fact that viewership in general is changing also shouldn't be discounted. The Rally was a participatory event, so for some, that meant tweeting and watching simultaneously -- on their laptops.

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