Obama’s Speech a TV Hit

John McCain’s strange VP pick, Sarah Palin may have dominated the news on Friday, but Barack Obama’s speech Thursday night accepting the Democratic nomination for president, set a record for political “convention viewership that exceeded even the expectations of his aides.”

The historic speech by the first African-American presidential nominee of a major political party reached 38.4 million viewers on 10 broadcast and cable networks, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. PBS estimated that an additional 3.5 million had watched its prime-time coverage.

The ratings dwarfed the audience for the Summer Olympics and the season finale of “American Idol” in May, and added to what was already a sense of buoyancy within the Obama campaign that the night had gone better than planned.

In spite of the right wing’s “advance ridicule of the enormous venue, Invesco Field, and the set, an elaborate, columned backdrop, Democrats went to bed having heard terrific reviews of the final night of their convention.” Yes, we did!

Indeed, the backdrop, initially derided as resembling a Greek temple — playing into the Republican line of attack that Mr. Obama’s supporters had deified him — turned out to be something of a hit; television reviewers and commentators praised the overall staging.

“The stagecraft was so phenomenal,” Andrea Mitchell said on MSNBC, adding, “I don’t know how they could have done it any better.”

In fact, “[T]he television audience for Mr. Obama’s speech was half again as large as the viewership for the acceptance speeches by President Bush and Senator John Kerry in 2004.”

Obama had an opportunity to get his message across to a record-breaking crowd of millions of American voters, and he used it effectively,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the campaign.

And, even with “McCain’s unexpected selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska” on Friday, online Obama’s “speech had been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube by Friday evening.”

The record viewership of Obama’s speech on Thursday night and all day Friday online, has got to have the Republicans and the McCain camp scrambling to find a way to top it. Good luck with that.

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