Skip to main content

Jackson Memorial Watched by 31 Million U.S. Viewers

LOS ANGELES: Last Tuesday’s mid-day memorial service for the late Michael Jackson brought crowds from around the world.

Nielsen said nearly 31 million U.S. viewers watched the service, broadcast live from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific time. The combined household Nielsen rating was a 20.5. A total of 20 networks carried the event.

Internet traffic spiked 19 percent during the service, several reports indicated. An average of 6.3 million people watched from the United Kingdom, where Jackson’s comeback tour was scheduled to open July 13 at the O2 arena in London. TV Week said five channels serving the U.K. carried the service, including SkyNews, which peaked at 1.15 million viewers--its highs rating since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. By comparison, tribute shows that aired in the country on June 26 were watched by 11 million viewers

The Web site for getting tickets to the memorial had 500 million hits in the first hour. Around 1.6 million people registered for the 16,000 or so tickets not handed out to friends of the family.The service itself generated a 19 percent spike with Internet traffic.

As Lisa de Moraes of The Washington Post predicted the U.S. audience number would be north of 30 million, noting that the verdict in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child sexual abuse trial drew 31 million. Princess Diana’s funeral grabbed 33 million people on eight networks in 1997. Jackson’s memorial was carried live from Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles by as many as 16 U.S. broadcast and cable networks.

Tribute shows that aired the night of June 25, hours after the entertainer was pronounced dead at UCLA hospital, drew 21.3 million viewers. A CBS News special captures 7.5 million people. ABC pulled in 8.2 million on a Jackson-flavored telecast of “20/20.” NBC’s two-hour “Dateline” special, during which the second half was devoted to Farrah Fawcett, who also died that day, had 5.6 million viewers. -- Deborah D. McAdams