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August 29, 2008

Obama's speech sets viewership record; CNN tops

82593504 UPDATED: Barack Obama's historic acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night was seen by 38.4 million viewers -- 57% more than watched John Kerry four years ago -- and was the most-watched convention speech ever.

Thursday night's viewership set a new record for national convention coverage, according to Nielsen Media Research. Naturally, it's also the largest number of the current convention, up 42% from Hillary Clinton's speech on Day 2.

Obama's speech was seen by more U.S. viewers than the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony (34.2 million).

Network-by-network: CNN won the hour with 8.1 million viewers (up 102% from Kerry's speech four years ago), followed by ABC (6.6 million), NBC (6.1 million), CBS (4.7 million), Fox News (4.2 million, up 63%) and MSNBC (4.1 million, up 88%). Among adults 18 to 49, CNN also won the 10 p.m. hour with a 2.5 rating (MSNBC: 1.2,  Fox News: 1.0).

Obama's chances for setting a new viewership benchmark were aided by population growth and the ever-expanding number of media outlets. The speech was carried live during primetime on 10 networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, BET, TV One, Univision and Telemundo. 

Among the broadcasters, Fox and CBS tied for first place, both averaging a 1.7 rating for the evening, with ABC and NBC tying for second, both with a 1.4 rating. CBS's "Big Brother" (6 million, 2.2/7) tied ABC's convention coverage to lead the night. NBC's presentation of pre-season football, Jacksonville at Washington, was the lowest-rated program among the major nets (2.8 million, 0.8/3).

Reviews of the speech: NY Mag: "Seven ways Obama's speech succeeded" ... Noonan: "Obama gets serious" ... Chicago Sun Times: "Electrifying" ... Denver speech-raters wowed ... Slate: "He could hardly have done a better job" ... Transcript ..

Adds PAUL GOUGH, on the ground in Denver --   

CNN won the hearts and stomachs of many of the convention goers with its CNN Grill, a restaurant adjacent to the Pepsi Center that was the go-to spot of choice for many. But outside of Denver, it won 8 million fans for its DNC coverage. It was the top network among all in coverage Thursday night.

"We were ahead by a considerable amount. There wasn't anybody even close last night," said CNN U.S. president Jon Klein. "We had African-American viewers, a lot of female viewers. We were just the channel of choice. That is what we set out to do in covering this campaign."

It's been a strong election season for CNN, which has been strong through primaries and debates. Klein said that he thinks it will continue because of CNN's insightful, unbiased coverage.

Klein said that CNN is able to go much deeper than the broadcast networks for political coverage, and is the go-to place.

"We're able to cover politics 24/7 nondtop with no partisan spin whatsoever," Klein said. "That's some advantage over all the other canle networks and the broadcast networks."

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