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More than 32 million watch Obama oil spill address

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 32 million Americans watched U.S. President Barack Obama address the nation on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on Tuesday -- a 33 percent drop in audience size for his first State of the Union speech in January.

Figures from TV tracker Nielsen on Wednesday showed that 11 network and cable channels carried Obama's national address live from the Oval office, drawing an overall audience of 32.05 million people.

In comparison, just over 48 million Americans watched Obama's State of the Union speech on television in January, while 40.7 million tuned in to hear him announce his Afghanistan strategy in December 2009.

On Tuesday evening, Obama vowed to compel oil company BP to pay damages for its "recklessness" and sought to harness public outrage into support for his bid to cut U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

After a meeting with BP executives on Wednesday, Obama said the British oil giant had agreed to a $20 billion fund to cover damages.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, triggered by a rig explosion on April 20, is the worst in U.S. history. It has fouled 120 miles of U.S. coastline, imperiled multibillion-dollar fishing and tourism industries and killed birds, sea turtles and dolphins.

The TV audience for Obama's address pales in comparison to the National Football League's annual Super Bowl, the premier TV event of the year. In February, a record 106.5 million Americans watched the Super Bowl, making it the most-watched U.S. telecast ever.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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