Study: 9/11 most memorable TV moment

FILE/ap A study ranked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the most memorable TV moment of the last 50 years.

NEW YORK — The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are by far the most memorable moment shared by television viewers during the past 50 years, a study released Wednesday concluded.

The only thing that came close was President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath in 1963, but that was only for the people aged 55 and over who experienced those events as they happened instead of replayed as an historical artifact.

Sony Electronics and the Nielsen television research company collaborated on the survey. They ranked TV moments for their impact not just by asking people if they remembered watching them, but if they recalled where they watched it, who they were with and whether they talked to other people about what they had seen.

By that measure, the Sept. 11 tragedy was nearly twice as impactful as the second-ranked moment, which was the coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Minutes after the first airplane struck New York’s World Trade Center on a late summer morning, television networks began covering the events continuously and stayed with them for days.

The other biggest TV events, in order, were the 1995 verdict in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986 and the death of Osama bin Laden last year, the survey found.

Sony was interested in the study for clues on consumer interests and behaviors and found “that television is really the grandmother of all the social devices,” said Brian Siegel, vice president of television business for the company.

The Super Bowl is annually the most-watched TV event, with this year’s game between the N.Y. Giants and New England Patriots setting an all-time record with 111 million viewers. The memories don’t seem to linger, however: the top-ranked Super Bowl Sunday event in Sony’s study came in 2004 and had nothing to do with football. It was Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction (No. 26).

Men and women agreed on the three most impactful television events — Sept. 11, Katrina and Simpson. After that, some of the interests diverged.

For example, women ranked the 1997 funeral of Princess Diana as the fourth most memorable event, while men put that at No. 23. Women ranked last year’s death of Whitney Houston at No. 5, with men judging it No. 21.

Similarly, the 2003 bombing of Baghdad at the start of the Iraq War was seen as the No. 14 most impactful moment by men, and No. 37 among women. Men were also far more struck by boxer Mike Tyson biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.