Obama commercial beats Perot in ratings, McCain urges ‘buyer beware’

One in five Denver households watching TV tuned in the half-hour Barack Obama campaign commercial broadcast Wednesday night on seven networks, according to overnight Nielsen ratings, slightly below the nationwide average. It was the first time a presidential candidate has purchased a wall-to-wall television commercial since Ross Perot broadcast an ad on Election Day in 1996, when roughly 17 percent of households watched.

The McCain campaign scoffed at the ad, which featured clips from Obama speeches, vignettes of swing-state voters facing hard times and testimonials from elected officials, business leaders and military experts. “As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. “Buyer beware.”

Here’s the first 27 minutes of the Obama ad, minus the conclusion, which was broadcast live from an Obama rally in Sunrise, Fla.:

A Nielsen release detailed the preliminary ratings:

• Overall, for the six networks that aired the program simultaneously, the spot had a household rating of 21.7 percent (meaning that 21.7 percent of all households watching television were tuned to the spot.)

• By comparison, the final debate between the two presidential candidates received a 38.3 household rating in the top 56 local TV markets. The candidates’ first debate 9/26 received a 34.7 household rating in the top 55 markets; their second debate 10/7 received a 42.0 household rating in those markets.

• The last presidential candidate to air a paid simulcast was Ross Perot in 1996, which received a national household rating of 16.8.

• Last night, the Baltimore market had the largest TV audience, with a household rating of 31.3, while the Portland market had the lowest household rating: 14.2.

Denver ranked 32nd among 56 cities reflected in the overnight Nielsens, with 20.8 percent of televisions tuned to the Obama ad.

The ad garnered 26.3 million viewers on CBS, NBC and Fox, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings reported by The Hollywood Reporter (THR). It outperformed the usual network programming for a Wednesday night in that time slot, THR said.

ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” the only major network show airing against the Obama ad, improved its ratings by 16 percent but still lost the ratings competition, coming in fourth place with 6.8 million viewers and a 2.2 share. By comparison, NBC’s airing of the Obama ad had 9.8 million viewers, CBS had 8.6 million and Fox had 7.9 million, THR reported.

The ad aired live on CBS, NBC, FOX, UNIVISION, MSNBC, and NY1. BET aired the ad in different time periods so wasn’t counted in the overnight Nielsen ratings.

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