January 22, 2009 / 3:59 AM / 9 years ago

Obama draws 37.8 million U.S. TV viewers

<p>President Barack Obama (L) walks on stage with first lady Michelle Obama during the Western States Inaugural Ball in Washington, January 20, 2009.Jason Reed</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Almost 37.8 million Americans watched the full day of television coverage of President Barack Obama's inauguration from their homes -- less than the record numbers expected, according to figures released on Wednesday.

Nielsen Media Research said the Obama swearing-in ceremony, parade and other events on Tuesday were the second most-watched presidential inauguration after that of Ronald Reagan in 1981, which drew 41.8 million TV viewers.

The 37.79 million-member Obama audience included homes that recorded the proceedings but not those who watched streaming Internet coverage of the event or watched the event outside their homes.

The figures were below the record expected given the enthusiastic turnout in Washington, D.C., and the media coverage generated by Obama's election as the first black president.

Nielsen said one-third of U.S. households in major cities watched the inauguration at home from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thousands more watched Tuesday's ceremonies in bars, at work or on giant TV screens set up in New York's Times Square and other cities.

<p>Singer Beyonce performs at the 'We Are One': Opening Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington January 18, 2009.Jim Young</p>

The Texas-based Global Language Monitors said on Wednesday that Obama's inauguration generated an unprecedented 35,000 stories in the world's major newspapers, on television and radio broadcasts in the first 24 hours -- about 35 times more than the last presidential swearing-in.

The inauguration of President George W. Bush in January 2005 resulted in about 1,000 stories in major media worldwide, Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor said.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Payack said that, according to his group's monitoring, "Obama is the biggest story of the century so far."

He said the Obama campaign and election story had generated 717,000 citations in print, television and radio across the world in 2008 and 254 million mentions on the Internet.

That surpassed media interest generated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the global financial meltdown in 2008, the Iraq war in 2003 and the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Payack said.

The tallies were calculated using the group's proprietary algorithm, which tracks the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, the Internet and major databases.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb

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