October 30, 2008 / 7:39 PM / in 9 years

CORRECTED - Obama infomercial tops network prime-time ratings

(Corrects 9th paragraph to show Perot ran similar ad in 1996 as well as 1992)

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Barack Obama’s campaign “infomercial” drew 26.4 million viewers to three major networks, proving modestly more popular than typical prime-time programming, preliminary figures showed on Thursday.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s 30-minute message on Wednesday night garnered 2.1 million more viewers on CBS, NBC and Fox combined than those three networks drew in the same half-hour last Wednesday, according to Nielsen Media Research.

For NBC and CBS, the Obama ad marked an audience bump of 43 percent and 11 percent respectively over last week’s action drama “Knight Rider” (7 million viewers) and the sitcom “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (7.8 million).

Fox did better last week with its World Series pre-game broadcast -- 9.6 million viewers.

The climax to Wednesday’s baseball championship was delayed by 15 minutes to allow Fox to air the Obama ad without interrupting its coverage of the game.

The infomercial drew fewer than half the 57.4 million viewers averaged by the three recent presidential debates between Obama and Republican rival John McCain which aired on 11 commercial networks in all.

The Obama ad also was carried on the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and cable channels MSNBC, BET and TV. No viewership figures were immediately available from those.

The infomercial blended pre-taped segments of Obama directly addressing viewers with a video montage of the nominee on the campaign trail and ordinary Americans of their economic struggles. It concluded with Obama addressing a live campaign rally in Florida.

It was a throwback to a political advertising strategy that was common in the 1950s and ‘60s and marked the first such paid national political telecast since Ross Perot ran a series during his independent bids for president in 1992 and 1996. (Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Alan Elsner)

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