Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver Thursday night drew a record number of television viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. More than 38 million — one in four households — watched the hour-long speech on 10 networks, nearly twice the number that watched John Kerry’s 2004 acceptance speech.
The Nielsen overnight numbers didn’t count PBS or C-SPAN viewers, or those who watched the speech online. PBS estimated 3.5 million households watched its coverage of the Democrat’s historic speech. Figures for TIVo and other digital-recorder users won’t be available until next week.
Overall, the Democratic National Convention broke viewer records, with an average 22.5 million households tuning in during prime time over the four days. The previous record for a political convention was the 1976 Republican edition, which drew an average 20 million households, when the three major networks broadcast the convention every night. This year, the broadcast networks just showed the 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. hour.
Nielsen measured viewers for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, BET, TV One, Univision and Telemundo. With 8 million viewers, CNN won the hour during the Obama speech, the first time the network has ever scored more viewers than any other network.
The Obama ratings were higher than this year’s American Idol finale, the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics, and the 2008 Academy Awards.