NEW YORK — It was far from a record, but President Clinton’s admission that he lied about his affair with a former White House intern still drew one of the biggest TV crowds of the year.
Adding up audience figures from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, Headline News and MSNBC, Nielsen Media Research estimates 67.6 million Americans watched Clinton’s four-minute confession, according to final total-viewer data released Wednesday.
By comparison, Nielsen says 53.1 million viewers tuned in to watch Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address, delivered just days after reports of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky surfaced in January.
The largest audience for any TV event this year was for Super Bowl XXXII, which attracted 90 million viewers on NBC, also in January. The Peacock’s “Seinfeld” finale also scored boffo numbers, bringing in 76.3 million viewers last May.
Those programs lasted more than an hour and aired on just one network. Clinton’s speech was a concentrated four minutes and was seen on many channels, thus helping to generate a larger audience.
NBC was the network of choice for viewers seeking speech coverage, attracting 21.07 million people from 10-10:07 p.m. EDT Monday. CBS (18.82 million) ranked a close second, followed by ABC (13.41 million) and Fox stations (3.49 million).
The Peacock also dominated the three-web, head-to-head post-speech analysis, which ran from 10:08 to 10:30 p.m., snagging 18.1 million viewers vs. ABC’s 16.1 million and CBS’ 13.76 million viewers. ABC, which aired a football game Monday night, was the only one of the Big Three to have a non-news lead-in for its speech coverage, as well as the only web to bail out of analysis early (in order to return to the game, which ran on sister cabler ESPN2 during ABC’s speech coverage).
From 10:30 to 11 p.m. on Monday, NBC’s post-confession yakfest again pulled out a ratings win, drawing a 16 share of the viewing audience vs. a 14 share for CBS’ analysis. The football game managed a 12 share.
For the night — excluding the few minutes devoted to Clinton’s speech, but including everything else in primetime — NBC won with 11.3 million viewers, followed by ABC (10.8 million), CBS (10.7 million) and Fox (8.6 million). Among adults 18-49, Fox actually pulled out a victory with a 4.8 rating in the demo, followed by NBC (4.7), ABC (4.1) and CBS (3.6).