Eleven networks carried the president's Thursday evening jobs speech, which began shortly after 7 p.m. EDT.
The NFL season opener between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, which began after Obama's speech ended, drew some 27 million television viewers.
The Republican presidential debate, which was on Wednesday when Obama had originally planned to speak, drew 5.4 million viewers for cable network MSNBC.
Obama's most watched speech was his late night announcement about the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. That unscheduled appearance at 11:30 p.m. on May 1, was watched by more than 56 million people, according to Nielsen.
The president's State of the Union address in January drew nearly 43 million viewers.