Barack Obama

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Even a football stadium couldn't hold Barack Obama's audience.

An Oscars-esque 38.4 million watched Obama's speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Nielsen Media Research said today.

Actually, the Oscar ceremony hasn't averaged 38 million-plus viewers since 2006.

Obama's Thursday speech, delivered before about 75,000 at the football home of the Denver Broncos, not only topped this past year's Oscars (32 million), but every night of the just-concluded Beijing Games (which, at its best, scored 34.9 million), and last spring's American Idol finale (31.7 million).

The speech drew more viewers than President Bush's last State of the Union address (37.5 million) and was easily the most-watched hour of this week's Democratic convention.

Nielsen stopped short of outright declaring it the most-watched convention event ever as its data for night-by-night, convention viewership only goes back to 2000.

Also unknown is exactly how many people watched the Obama speech live on TV.

Nielsen counted everybody who caught the speech on one of 10 broadcast or cable channels, but, as is its way, did not count those who watched it on a noncommercial outlet, à la PBS or CSPAN.

Nielsen stats definitively show the Obama speech was the most-watched, nonsports program in African-American households since a Michael Jackson anniversary concert broadcast on CBS in 2001. Obama, the junior U.S. senator from Illinois, is the first African-American to serve as a major party's presidential nominee.

Combined with the convention's first three nights, the Democratic convention averaged 27.7 million, making it the most-watched convention, Democratic or Republican, on record. (Again, Nielsen's records only go back to 2000. Also, more networks than ever provided live coverage of this past week's convention.)

After Obama, the week's next-biggest draw was the senator's top rival in the primaries: Hillary Clinton.Tuesday's prime-time coverage, featuring a speech by Clinton, averaged 26 million. Wednesday night, featuring a speech by former President Bill Clinton, averaged 24 million.

The Republican convention is set to kick off Monday.

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