Obama's speech shatters Nielsen ratings
by Allison Waldman, posted Aug 29th 2008 3:38PM
The reviews from the political talking heads -- right and left -- have been mostly positive. The visuals were spectacular and riveting. History was made at Mile High Stadium in Denver last night when Senator Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic party as the first African-American presidential candidate. There were 80,000 people packed in the stadium, and now Nielsen has determined that 38 million people tuned in to watch on TV.
How impressive is that number? It's more than the opening ceremonies from the Beijing Olympics. It's also more than the 2008 Oscars and the finale of Fox's American Idol.
The networks cleared just one hour of prime time -- from 10-11 ET -- and the Democratic organizers made sure to present Obama's speech right in that slot, not drifting into the local late news.
While the media promoted and hyped the event, especially since Obama is the first politician to accept a nomination in an outdoor venue since John F. Kennedy appeared at the L.A. Coliseum in 1960, that many people watching a political speech is stunning.
Expectations on all the news outlets were very high, and that clearly spilled over to the public -- as well as the fact that there wasn't a lot of fresh programming up against it. Still, it seems that there was a groundswell of curiosity about Obama, as well as the big build up from the previous three days of the convention -- which included speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Senator Hillary Clinton, all of whom drew strong ratings, too.
The 38 million people Nielsen is reporting could grow once PBS and CSpan viewership is factored in to the total. It also nearly double the size of the audience that tuned in for Senator John Kerry's acceptance speech in 2004.
It will be interesting to see how well the Republicans fare with their national convention commencing next week. Nielsen numbers are not polling data, but if John McCain's acceptance speech -- scheduled to be delivered from the XCell Arena in St. Paul, Minnesota on Thursday evening -- draws significantly less viewers that Obama's, will that be an indicator of voting preference? I can't say, but I'm curious enough to tune in and hear his speech.