Millions in Europe watch inauguration

7.3 mil check in at BBC News' Web site

COLOGNE, Germany -- Barack Obama's inauguration was must-see TV for European viewers, with tens of millions tuning in to watch the 44th U.S. president take his oath of office.

Some 11 million Germans watched coverage on one of the half-dozen channels carrying the inauguration live. Things were similar in France, where half the evening's TV audience -- more than 7 million people -- was glued to the screen.

In Britain, the BBC said that 5.1 million viewers tuned in for the inauguration while 6.5 million watched the highlights on the BBC's 6 p.m. evening news.

Additionally, 7.3 million unique users accessed the story on the BBC News Web site, with a fifth of those watching video content online.

"The United States was celebrating, and we were celebrating with them," said Frank Beckmann, program director at German regional broadcaster NDR, whose inauguration program for pubcaster ARD drew a 24% share, with more than 5 million viewers.

"The results were good, strong," a spokesman for Italy's RAI television said. "I've been told that people turned in specifically for (the inauguration) and I know that some advertisers specifically requested to air during the coverage."

Many smaller news channels enjoyed an Obama ratings bump -- both during the swearing-in ceremony and afterward as viewers clamored for information on the new U.S. president. Canal Plus' popular nightly program "Le Grand Journal" earned its best ratings yet with a 9.4% market share for a special episode devoted to Obama.

Mimi Turner in London, Rebecca Leffler in Paris and Eric J. Lyman in Rome contributed to this report.