Michael Jackson Memorial Draws 31.1 Million U.S. Viewers

Total is less than Obama inauguration, about the same as 'American Idol' finale numbers.

With 18 U.S. TV networks and cable outlets broadcasting the nearly three-hour Michael Jackson memorial service on Tuesday, just over 31.1 million people tuned in. Nielsen Media Research reported that despite the global attention paid to the death of the pop icon and the breathless anticipation of his final sendoff, the U.S. numbers for the event were lower than the figures in this country for the 2004 funeral of ex-president Ronald Reagan (35.1 million), the 1997 funeral of England’s Princess Diana (33.3 million), the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January (37.8 million) and the president’s first White House news conference in February (49.5 million).

By comparison, last year’s “American Idol” finale drew 31.7 million viewers, and the Super Bowl typically draws nearly 100 million viewers.

While the Jackson numbers did not break records, thanks to the widespread pickup by so many networks and stations the event had an audience share of 56, Nielsen reported. That figure means that 56 percent of the TVs turned on at the time were tuned in to the Jackson memorial, an astronomical figure for daytime television, which typically has much lower figures than prime-time programming.

Reuters reported that the numbers for the memorial — which featured performances from Usher , Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson , as well as a touching message from the late singer’s daughter, Paris Jackson — did not include figures for the estimated millions who watched the event online or in replays. They also don’t take into account the many community gatherings and the nearly 100 movie theaters that screened the event across the nation.

Akamai, an Internet company that handles 20 percent of the world’s web traffic, reported that it handled nearly 2.8 million audio and video streams during the Jackson memorial, making it the most widely viewed Internet event since Obama’s inauguration.

In England, however, where Jackson was slated to kick off his 50-date This Is It residency at London’s O2 Arena next Tuesday, the Guardian estimated that 6 million people tuned in to the service.

For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”

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Often guilty, never convicted. Serving 15 years to life at MTV News.