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.
The passage of time has also diluted some moments once thought as unforgettable, simply because succeeding generations have no personal memory of them. Man's first moon landing in 1969 ranked No. 21.
Age also made a big difference in the survey. JFK's assassination was the second-most impactful TV event among people 55 and over, while for those between 18 and 34, it was the death of Osama bin Laden.
Young people also ranked Barack Obama's Election Night speech in 2008 at No. 3, while that didn't move older viewers quite as much (No. 24).
Simply because of their age, events like the JFK assassination, President Nixon's resignation and the moon landing didn't register at all among viewers 18 to 34. The oldest event to appear in their rankings was the 1980 shooting of John Lennon.
The study was based on an online questionnaire of 1,077 adults selected as a scientific sample from among Nielsen's panel of people measured for television ratings. It was conducted between Feb. 15-17 this year.
The study could be a good baseline for future looks at how television impacts viewers, said Paul Lindstrom, senior vice president for custom research at Nielsen.
“I'd like to see these done on a periodic basis going forward,” he said.
AT A GLANCE
TV's most memorable moments
The most impactful television events of the last 50 years, as measured in a survey conducted by Nielsen and Sony Electronics. The rankings are based on a questionnaire of consumers about events they had watched, if they remember where they were and if they discussed the events with others.
2. Hurricane Katrina (2005).
3. The O.J. Simpson verdict (1995).
4. The Challenger space shuttle explodes (1986).
5. Death of Osama bin Laden (2011).
6. The O.J. Simpson White Bronco chase (1994).
7. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami (2011).
8. Columbine school shooting (1999).
9. BP oil spill in Gulf of Mexico (2010).
10. Princess Diana's funeral (1997).
11. Death of Whitney Houston (2012).
12. Capture and execution of Saddam Hussein (2006).
13. Barack Obama Election Night speech (2008)
14. Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (2011).
15. John F. Kennedy assassination (1963).
16. Oklahoma City bombing (1995).
17. Bush/Gore disputed election (2000).
18. Los Angeles riots, Rodney King beating (1992).
19. Casey Anthony murder trial verdict (2011).
20. John F. Kennedy funeral (1963).