State Of The Union Viewership Down Double Digits From 2019; Fox News Tops All, Only Net To Rise Over Last Year – Update

By Dominic Patten, Dino-Ray Ramos

In a week of political high drama & pratfalls, POTUS & the Speaker bother brought their game to the SOTU AP

2ND UPDATE, 3:02: Similar to the Iowa caucus result, numbers continue to straggle in for Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

After earlier numbers from the Big 4 nets and major cable newsers, Nielsen has produced what looks to be the final-final results for Donald Trump’s door prize-filled SOTU. The metrics company is estimating that across 12 separate networks, about 37.2 million viewers tuned in during the 9-10:30 p.m. ET speech from U.S. Capitol.

A slight bounce with the inclusion of the likes of Univision, PBS and others, this final tally still is double digits below the 46.8 million who clicked on to Trump’s SOTU last year.

UPDATED, 12:13 PM: The final Senate votes are coming soon in Donald Trump’s short-lived impeachment trial, but POTUS might want to be much more concerned about his State of the Union numbers.

Despite one literal and figurative zinger after another, plus a Medal of Freedom given live to Rush Limbaugh, the former Celebrity Apprentice’s latest address to Congress looks to be his least watched ever.

Topped once again by a surging Fox News Channel and its audience of 11.5 million, the combined results from Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Fox Business, Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC brought in 34.2 million viewers, a double-digit drop from last year’s final SOTU numbers.

To be specific (and granted we don’t have metrics from PBS, Univision and a few others yet), that’s a 27% plunge overall from last year, which saw a slight bounce from 2018. In fact, all nets and cablers were down except FNC, who saw a 2% bop up in viewership. In the FNC-dominated 9 – 10:30 PM ET slot, a soundly beaten CNN and MSNBC had audiences of 2.8 million and 2.2 million, respectively.

While ahead of the 31.3 million who tuned in for Barack Obama’s final SOTU on January 12, 2016, the big drama of Trump’s talk last night was far behind the 43.5 million who watched Bill Clinton give his January 19, 1999 SOTU while facing an ultimately unsuccessful impeachment trial in the Senate.

Co-anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, FNC’s SOTU coverage also snared a night-topping 2.7 million in the coveted news demographic of adults 25-54. That’ more than 1 million more than the demo second-place holder Fox broadcast and well above CNN and MSNBC’s 946,000 and 478,000 in the demo, respectively.

Interestingly, both WarnerMedia’s and the Comcast-owed cabler newsers saw their numbers rise when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offered the official Democratic response to Trump’s address. FNC went down to 7.9 million viewers in that 10:30-10:45 PM ET slot, while CNN went up to 2.9 million and MSNBC rose to 2.8 million. Which begs the question, why isn’t Whitmer running for President this year?

PREVIOUSLY, 8:20 AM PT: One day before an assumed acquittal in his impeachment trial and just after the Democrats’ disarray in the Iowa Caucuses, Donald Trump pulled out all the showman stops for his third State of the Union speech, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came in with a ripping showstopper of her own at the end.

Still, despite the political door prizes, special guests, big name boycotts, hyperbole galore and the nation’s top Democrats literally shredding the ex-Celebrity Apprentice’s speech in front of Congress and the cameras, a wary America seemed to tune a lot of it out.

Or, put it another way, Trump’s poll numbers may be at his best ever, but his ratings are way down. Clocking in at 78 minutes and hitting a SOTU low for the 45th POTUS, Trump’s sprawling remarks are looking pretty weak compared to what ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox snagged for last year’s address before the nation’s representatives.

With non-adjusted fast-affiliate results just in, the 2020 SOTU pulled in a mere 15.9 million viewers on the Big 4 networks in the 9-10:30 PM ET slot. That’s a dive of 21% from the early numbers of the 82-minute 2019 SOTU, when the drama in and out of the House chamber seemed relatively milder, if you can believe that in this era.

Overall, CBS was tops last night among the broadcasters with 4.6 million viewers. With everyone tumbling from 2018, last year’s number No. 1, NBC, brought in 4.4 million viewers, ABC had 3.6 million and Fox drew 3.4 million. Focusing a little tighter on who was really watching, NBC and Fox were tied among adults 18-49 with a 0.9 rating each. That’s a hard drop of 36% and 18%, respectively, for the networks in the key demo compared with the 2019 SOTU.

Jumping by 1 million viewers over the final numbers of the 2018 occasion, last year’s SOTU eventually ended up with an audience of just under 47 million across a dozen networks carrying the speech live on February 5, 2019. Bill Clinton’s January 19, 1999 SOTU address, which came less than a month before the 42nd POTUS was acquitted in his own impeachment trial, scored an audience of 43.5 million over ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

We’ll update with more SOTU numbers, including that vital cable news info, ASAP. In the meantime, with the SOTU taking most of TV’s real estate Tuesday night, many of the networks aired reruns.

Among the exceptions. NBC’s Ellen’s Game of Games (1.0, 5.01M) held steady with last week, while Fox aired 24 Hours to Hell and Back (0.8, 3.06M) which ticked up to a season high in its special time slot. The CW stuck with its superhero lineup with The Flash (0.4, 1.29M) slipping, while DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (0.2, 788,000) held steady.

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