Well, it was big.
The biggest ever Probably not. Tuesday’s memorial service for Michael Jackson was expected to set some high marks for viewership — and it did. But, based on information gathered by various meter-readers, it was no moon landing or Princess Diana funeral — events whose audiences, by some reckonings, pushed 1 billion viewers. In the United States, the Jackson memorial aired during the late morning and afternoon, when most people are working. Nielsen, the television ratings service, said that 31.1 million watched: not as many as the Obama inauguration (38 million) but more than the 2009 “American Idol” finale (28.8 million). In all or in part, the program was aired on 19 U.S. television networks. In Europe, where the show aired in prime time, the memorial service also did well. The BBC reported that 5.2 million people watched the show on the network BBC2, and 2 million more watched on the British networks Five and Sky News. The service also aired on channels in Germany, France, Australia and Japan, testifying to the King of Pop’s worldwide reach. But it was the Internet where the Jackson memorial really hit the heights. Global Web traffic ranged from 19 percent to 33 percent above normal during the event, according to Internet monitoring firm Akamai Technologies. CNN.com reported 9.7 million live video streams between midnight and 5 p.m. PT, as well as 81 million page views, according to internal data.
Complete Michael Jackson coverage
Yahoo News had 5 million live video streams, according to the publication Media Life. The publication also reported that FoxNews.com and MSNBC.com combined for 6.4 million video streams. Anecdotally, Jackson also fared well. Jackson-related topics were highly ranked on Twitter, Google Trends and Alexa. Facebook, which partnered with CNN.com to let friends and family share commentary during the service, reported 800,000 status updates by 1 million users. The Obama inauguration, by contrast, had 600,000 status updates during the event, though there were 1.5 million for the day of the inauguration, according to TechCrunch. Jackson does outrank the president as the most popular person on Facebook, with 7.7 million fans, versus 6.4 million for Obama. In Los Angeles, the Jackson memorial proved to be less of a draw than locals had hoped — or feared. Though the city staffed the area around the Staples Center, where the memorial was held, with 3,000 police officers — 1,000 more than had been on hand for the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory parade — the crowd without tickets may have numbered in the thousands, according to unofficial estimates, and not the hundreds of thousands that had been feared. Even inside the memorial, which was held at the Staples Center and the adjacent Nokia Theatre, not every seat of the 20,000 available appeared to be taken, according to CNN observations. The Jackson memorial also drew hundreds of fans, respectively, to gatherings in New York’s Times Square, Detroit’s Motown Historical Museum, London’s O2 Arena and a Tokyo Tower Records store. Jackson is still reigning on the music charts. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the singer had the two best-selling albums in the United States last week — “Thriller” and “Number Ones” — and 13 of the top 20 catalog albums. On iTunes, he has four of the top 10 songs on iTunes and four of the top 10 albums. Finally, where there’s a big event, there’s at least a little money to be made off the spectacle. At the Staples Center on Tuesday, vendors sold Michael Jackson T-shirts, artwork, decals and even beverages. For the real spectacle, though, one must turn to eBay, where there were at least 50,000 Michael Jackson-related items up for auction as of Wednesday afternoon. Among them: 1984 Topps trading cards ($15.50), official memorial service programs (from $2.99 to at least $10,000, some with wristbands and tickets) and even Web domain names — one of which, MichaelJacksonForestLawnCemetery.com, can be yours for $650,000. The Jackson magic may have been dominant Tuesday, but someone is obviously expecting it to continue for quite some time longer.