Obama's bin Laden speech draws 56 million viewers

LOS ANGELES Tue May 3, 2011 7:21pm EDT

President Barack Obama is pictured after announcing live on television the death of Osama bin Laden, from the East Room of the White House in Washington May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

President Barack Obama is pictured after announcing live on television the death of Osama bin Laden, from the East Room of the White House in Washington May 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 56 million Americans watched President Barack Obama's televised address on the death of Osama bin Laden, according to ratings data on Tuesday.

Despite the late hour on Sunday -- shortly before midnight on the U.S. East Coast -- and the brief notice given before the address, Obama's speech drew more viewers than either of his two State of the Union addresses.

Some 56.5 million Americans people tuned in to hear him announce that U.S. forces had killed the al Qaeda leader in Pakistan, almost 10 years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, Nielsen said in a statement.

The figure was more than double the 25.6 million who watched Obama's nationwide address in March justifying U.S. military action against Libya.

His first State of the Union address, in January 2010, pulled in 48 million viewers; that number fell 11 percent to 42.8 million this year. By comparison, "American Idol" -- the most highly rated entertainment show on U.S. television -- currently attracts about 25 million viewers per episode.

Obama's announcement, carried live on nine U.S. television networks, sent thousands of rejoicing Americans out onto streets outside the White House, at the site of the fallen World Trade Center in New York, and into Times Square.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Dean Goodman and Eric Walsh)

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