UPDATE, 1:44 PM: There’s still some stragglers like PBS to come in, but right now it looks like Joe Biden’s first State of the Union speech was watched by about 37 million people last night.
That figure comes from the addition of data from Univision (1.4 million), Newsmax (462,00), CNBC (285,000) and Telemundo (1.2 million) to slightly tweaked results of earlier today from the broadcasters and the cable newsers. At this rate, POTUS’ SOTU looks certain to end up with over 38 million viewers when all the outlets are accounted for.
If the final numbers for Biden’s speech show it in the 37 million range, it will comparable to the viewership for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2020, the last of his term. That address, which drew 37.2 million, stood out for his presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh and then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s tearing up of a copy of Trump’s speech.
PREVIOUSLY, 12:01 PM: In his successful 2020 White House bid, candidate Joe Biden campaigned as a unifier trying to save the soul of America. Last night, in his first State of the Union address, the 46th President of the United States doubled down on that unity theme.
Speaking for just over an hour (though it felt like longer) before mainly unmasked members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Vice-President Kamala Harris and distinguished guests, Biden centered on challenges both foreign and domestic. While the speech lacked the Aaron Sorkin moment that many pundits not so secretly hope for, it was certainly full of drama and some surprises for a nation exhausted and ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My report is this: the state of the union is strong because you, the American people, are strong,” the poll-challenged POTUS proclaimed as he found constant bipartisan ground on the battle against Russian’s invasion of Ukraine as well as tax reform, police funding and fighting the opioid epidemic. “We are stronger today than we were a year ago,” Biden continued amidst several standing ovations and at least two jeers from Rep. Lauren Boebart (R-Colo). “And we’ll be stronger a year from now than we are today.”
Certainly, with inflation and oil prices rising plus Vladimir Putin’s stymied but still strong forces pounding and advancing on Ukrainian cities and a Biden-led coalition pulling the plug on Russia economically via ever increasing sanctions, there was a lot more apparent interest in POTUS’ stint before Congress this year than in 2021.
And that increased interest was certainly reflected in last night’s viewership.
Among the broadcasters and cable newsers, Biden’s inaugural SOTU drew just over 32.3 million viewers.
That result comes for a combination of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC. The Rupert Murdoch-owned outlet was in first place among the channels in the 9:10 – 10:15 PM ET time period with 6.9 million tuning in. Disney-owned ABC was in second place with 5.9 million viewers. Third place CBS had an audience of 4.6 million NBC and CNN were tied for fourth place with 4.5 million watching, MSNBC had 4 million and Fox the network had 1.8 million watching.
In the 25-54 demo, ABC News topped with 1.73 million, followed by CNN with 1.62 million, Fox News with 1.6 million, NBC News with 1.43 million, CBS News with 994,000, MSNBC with 653,000 and Fox network with 626,000.
Biden’s SOTU audience of 32,301,000 is a significant bounce 22.6 million sets of eyeballs that Biden snagged across the seven outlets when he spoke to a masked and sparse joint session of Congress on April 28 last year. Nielsen later estimated the total audience across 16 networks at 26.9 million. They have not yet released figures for Biden’s speech last night.
Unsurprisingly, in a divided America and new media habits, the 46th POTUS’ first SOTU does not look on target to beat the total viewership for Donald Trump’s first SOTU on January 30, 2018. The former Celebrity Apprentice host had an audience of 45.6 million watching him on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision, PBS, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, FBN, NBC Universo and Estrella four years ago. An estimated 37.2 million watched Trump’s final State of the Union address in 2020.
As was typical of Presidents before the pandemic, Joe Biden is on the road today in the battleground state of Wisconsin selling his unity agenda and foreign policy skills.
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