The 10 Most-Watched Events In Television History

Getting millions or even billions of people around the world to do the same thing at the same time is no small feat. Every once in a while, though, a special event occurs that demands a large percentage of the world's population to pay attention. The most-watched TV events in history, such as the final commemoration of President John F. Kennedy, drew staggering numbers of diverse viewers.

Popular television programs can gauge what's interesting on a global level. Though it's difficult to compile perfectly accurate statistics on TV viewership, these events attracted hundreds of millions of people to their televisions.


  • 10

    President John F. Kennedy's Funeral - 1963

    Estimated Number of Viewers: 180,000,000

    On November 22, 1963, Americans learned that the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated by a sniper in Dallas, TX. Three days later, the funeral took place, and an estimated 180 million people tuned in to watch the ceremony. Ninety-three percent of American homes equipped with a television watched the event.

    Additionally, about 250,000 people attended the funeral in Washington, DC, and more than 800,000 people lined the road to watch the funeral procession.

  • 9

    Prince William And Catherine Middleton's Wedding - 2011

    Estimated Number of Viewers: 300,000,000

    On April 29, 2011, several hundred million people tuned in to watch Catherine Middleton marry Prince William at the Westminster Abbey in London, England. The viewer count includes millions of people across 188 countries who had streamed the royal wedding on YouTube.

  • 8

    Cricket World Cup Semi-Final (India Vs. Pakistan) - 2011

    Estimated Number of Viewers: 400,000,000

    When sports rivals India and Pakistan were slated to face off in the second semifinal of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011, fans from both countries tuned in to watch. The match was held on March 30 at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali in India. The stadium was filled with roughly 35,000 passionate fans, including celebrities, diplomats, and prime ministers from both India and Pakistan.

    The match disappointed many fans of the Pakistan team, as India took the lead and moved on to the final. There, India faced off against Sri Lanka and won.

  • 7

    Spring Festival Gala - 2012

    Estimated Number of Viewers: 498,000,000

    The Spring Festival Gala is an annual special produced by China Central Television (CCTV) to celebrate the Chinese New Year; it first aired in 1983. Recognized by Guinness World Records as one of the most-watched variety shows in the world, the program is incredibly popular.

    In 2012, roughly 498 million viewers, primarily from China, tuned in to watch the gala.

  • 6

    Michael Jackson's Memorial Service - 2009

    Estimated Number of Viewers: 500,000,000

    On July 7, 2009, which marked 12 days after legendary pop star Michael Jackson passed away, a public memorial service was held in his honor at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Jackson's concert promoter, AEG Live, gave away 17,500 free service tickets to fans all over the world. Within 24 hours, more than 1.6 million people applied for the passes online.

    In addition to the thousands in attendance, millions more watched from their own homes. The memorial also featured performances by Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, and others. Estimates suggest more than 500 million fans watched.

  • Estimated Number of Viewers: 500,000,000

    On July 20, 1969, more than a half-billion people tuned in to watch US astronauts land on the moon. At the time, that landing had the largest television audience in history. Viewers around the globe watched Neil Armstrong declare, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

    Cameras mounted to the moon's surface by the Apollo 11 team had broadcast the historic moment live. The astronauts left the moon with about 50 pounds of lunar rocks and soil. On the surface, they placed a US flag and a plaque stating, "We came in peace for all mankind."