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September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin scores huge viewership at RNC

Palin_sarah Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's highly anticipated speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night nearly matched the record-setting numbers of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Palin pulled in 37.2 million viewers across broadcast and cable networks, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That's 55% higher than Day 3 of the DNC, when her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, and President Clinton took the stage (24 million).

It's also up a sharp 99% from the Republican convention's third day in 2004 (18.7 million) and easily bests the numbers viewers attracted by George W. Bush when he accepted the nomination (27.6 million). In fact, it came close to upsetting Obama's historic address last Thursday -- the most-watched convention speech in history (38.4 million viewers).

Palin's viewership is up 73% from Tuesday's RNC tally, when 21.5 million tuned in to see President Bush and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman endorse nominee John McCain. The event also drew more female viewers than Hillary Clinton's speech last week.

Palin has been beset by controversy since McCain shocked Beltway insiders by appointing the relatively little-known governor as his vice presidential pick. Her Wednesday night speech was presented as an opportunity to address her skeptics.

Reaction to Palin's speech was very positive: "Sarah Palin's perfect premiere" ... "connects with people in a way few politicians can" ... "Palin was stunning" ... "Palin sets high bar for McCain" ... as some have noted,  the AP says some lines in the speech didn't pass their fact check. Here's the speech and video.

UPDATE: Cable news network estimates show Fox News is out in front with 9.2 million viewers (from 10 to 11:15 p.m.), followed by CNN with 6.2 million and MSNBC with 3.4 million. Note CNN won last week when the Democrats were on stage, and Fox News has been taking the lead now that the Republicans are having their turn. CNN and Fox News also bested the broadcasters in the adult demo. From 10 to 11 p.m., NBC had 7.7 million, CBS had 4.9 million and ABC had 5.9 million.

This was the third-highest telecast ever in the history of Fox News (only other two that were higher was a Bush address re: Iraq in '03 and a debate in '04).

Also, PBS just chimed in to say 3.2 million watched on their network, which brings Palin's total viewership on ad-supported and public airwaves to more than 40 million. (Getting questions about this, PBS isn't ad supported and isn't counted by Nielsen in the same way, so one normally tries to avoid mixing the two).

Read all of THR's convention coverage


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