38.3 MILLION VIEWERS…. Watching Barack Obama’s acceptance speech last night, I remember thinking, “I sure hope people tuned in to watch this.” They sure did.

Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday as an estimated 38 million viewers watched on television, setting a new record for convention viewership, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Mr. Obama’s speech — a historic one given his status as the first African American nominee of a major political party — reached significantly more viewers than the comparable addresses in 2004. Coverage of John Kerry’s acceptance speech in 2004 had 24.4 million viewers; coverage of George W. Bush’s convention speech that same year drew 27.5 million.

The audience estimate of 38.3 million means that Mr. Obama’s speech reached more viewers than the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final “American Idol” or the Academy Awards this year, the Associated Press notes.

Furthermore, the four-night Democratic convention ranks as the most-watched convention of either party, Democratic or Republican, since Nielsen began measuring conventions in 1960.

Keep in mind, several decades ago, conventions dominated every major network — and there was no cable.

For that matter, let’s also not forget that Nielsen’s numbers don’t include those who watched the fourth night of the convention on PBS, C-SPAN, online, or via a DVR.

In order words, there was an extraordinary amount of attention in what the Democrats had to say during the convention. We’ll learn soon enough whether the viewers liked what they heard, but the early results look favorable for the party.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.