With Barack Obama set to be inaugurated Tuesday as the nation's 44th president, the day figures to be one of the most-covered live events ever in television history. For Obama's swearing-in at noon, estimates put the potential worldwide audience in the billions. That figure that could dwarf viewership numbers for the Super Bowl and Academy Awards, and reach heights ordinarily seen only for the Olympics and the World Cup.
Following is an hour-by-hour account of what to look for as you keep up with the day's proceedings:
CNN kicks off the day's live event coverage from Capitol Hill. C-Span and Fox News begin broadcasting at 6 a.m.
Security gates open for ticketholders for the swearing-in and the National Mall. Expect to see shots of cold, but excited attendees slowly making their way through security gates at entrances to the swearing-in viewing areas and on the National Mall. Inauguration officials have advised anyone with tickets to arrive no later than 9 a.m. to get through security. Nonetheless, expect to see people in lines well before and after the official program starts.
The Obamas attend a private prayer service at the historic St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square.
CBS News begins a six-hour broadcast
Now the show starts for real. The swearing-in ceremony begins with music from the Marine Band, the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will issue the call to order and make brief welcoming remarks before making way for probably the day's most controversial figure, Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Obama infuriated gay and lesbian groups when he announced earlier this month that Warren, a conservative evangelical megachurch minister who opposes same-sex marriage, would deliver the invocation. The Obama camp attempted to defuse the situation by naming Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to give the invocation at Sunday's inauguration opening ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial.
Also, Obama meets with President George W. Bush at the White House; they travel together to the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony.
ABC News and MSNBC begin their coverage.
After a song by Aretha Franklin, who also sang at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration, Joe Biden will be sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Stevens.
NBC starts its coverage.
The third musical interlude features composer and Floral Park native John Williams (noted for his "Star Wars" scores, among other accomplishments), violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill.
Once Williams and the foursome are through playing, Obama and John Roberts, the Supreme Court's chief justice, will take center stage. The swearing-in duties will be Roberts' first, making him the 14th chief justice to swear in a president.
Every elected president since John Adams has been sworn in by the chief justice. (In 1789, George Washington was sworn in by Robert Livingston, the New York state chancellor, and William Cushing, an associate justice, in 1793.)
Obama, placing his hand on Abraham Lincoln's inaugural Bible, will recite the same oath as his 43 predecessors, as prescribed by the Constitution: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
PBS begins its inaugural coverage.
Obama is sworn in as president and delivers his inaugural address.
The address will be followed by a poem composed and read by New York-born poet Elizabeth Alexander. The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery will follow with a benediction and the program concludes with the playing of the national anthem by the U.S. Navy band Sea Chanters.
After President Obama finishes his speech, he will accompany his predecessor to a departure ceremony at the Capitol and then attend a luncheon at the Capitol's Statuary Hall. The three-course meal featuring stewed and scalloped oysters and an apple desert, is inspired by Lincoln's culinary favorites. Obama, Biden and their families, the Supreme Court justices, cabinet designees and the congressional leadership are expected to attend.
At 1:25 p.m., Bush makes "brief remarks" at the departure ceremony.
The 56th Inaugural Parade begins, and the Obamas join the inaugural motorcade. The parade will make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. The forecast calls for clouds and temperatures about 30. Expect Obama to emerge from his limousine to walk a stretch of the route. In doing so, he would follow a tradition established by Jimmy Carter that now seems ingrained in presidential inauguration. Carter's 1.5-mile walk, which he made with his wife, Rosalynn, was designed to show that the country had emerged from the stain of the Watergate scandal.
The parade ends.
The official inaugural balls begin, with the first-ever Neighborhood Ball at the Washington Convention Center. The event, which is expected to include the president and first lady's first dance of the night, will be broadcast exclusively on ABC beginning at 8 p.m.
The Obamas begin their trek to the remaining official balls: The Commander-in-Chief's Ball, a Youth Ball, five official regional balls - including the Mid-Atlantic ball at the convention center, for invitees from New York and four other states and the District of Columbia - and Home States Balls thrown by Hawaii and Illinois for Obama, and Delaware and Pennsylvania for Biden.
Among unofficial events, there's also a ball that touts itself as "the largest gathering of peace activists without a protest" ( Harry Belafonte and Joan Baez are attending), a Funk 4 Peace ball and a ball thrown by the D.C. municipal government to highlight the capital's lack of representation in the federal government.
Also, several television networks air inaugural specials in this time period: BET's "Yes We Will" inauguration celebration, featuring Ne-Yo and Wyclef Jean, and the Disney Channel's "Kids' Inaugural," honoring military families, at 8 p.m; CBS' "Change and Challenge," and Frontline's "Dreams of Obama" on PBS at 9 p.m.; and NBC's "The Presidency of Barack Obama" and ABC's "A moment in history: The inauguration of Barack Obama" at 10 p.m.