TV Ratings: State of the Union Falls 21 Percent vs. 2019

The audience on the broadcast networks and three biggest cable news channels is down by double digits versus 2019.
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The State of the Union address drew a considerably smaller audience than it did a year ago.

President Trump's address and the Democratic response averaged 33.67 million viewers from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET on broadcast networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and cable news channels CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Viewing on PBS, Univision, Telemundo, Fox Business and CNNe raised the total to 37.17 million, according to Nielsen figures. That's down about 21 percent from the total of 46.79 million in 2019.

Fox News drew the largest audience of any single network by a wide margin and was the only outlet among those seven to increase its audience from a year ago. The other networks were all off by a good amount.

Fox News averaged 11.55 million viewers for the address, up about 2.5 percent from 11.27 million last year. NBC topped the broadcast networks with 4.8 million viewers (down from 7.14 million in 2019), followed by CBS with 4.66 million (vs. 6.68 million in 2019), ABC with 4.12 million (vs. 5.91 million) and Fox with 3.51 million (vs. 4.2 million). The combined audience on the four broadcast networks fell by 28.5 percent year to year.

CNN drew 2.79 million viewers, down from 3.47 million a year ago, and MSNBC trailed with 2.24 million viewers, vs. 3.79 million in 2019.

The Democratic response drew a combined 24.15 million viewers from 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. on the three cable news nets, ABC, CBS and NBC (figures for the Fox broadcast network weren't available). Fox News maintained its lead with 7.94 million viewers, and CNN (2.92 million) and MSNBC (2.85 million) both grew compared to the presidential address.

The 2019 State of the Union drew 46.79 million viewers across 12 networks, up slightly from 2018. The English-language broadcast networks accounted for a little more than half of that total (23.93 million), adjusted up from 20.39 million in the early numbers. This story will be updated when more accurate ratings figures become available.

Tuesday's year-to-year decline for the State of the Union follows a pattern similar to that of previous administrations. The audience for the speeches from Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the final year of their first terms fell by an average of 15 percent vs. the prior year. 

Prior to the news coverage, Ellen's Game of Games topped the 8 p.m. hour in adults 18-49 with a 1.0 rating and delivered a season-high 5 million viewers on NBC. Fox's 24 Hours to Hell and Back also posted season highs of 0.8 in the demo and 3.06 million viewers (pending updates for both shows). The CW got a 0.4 for The Flash, down slightly from its last non-crossover episode in December, and a 0.2 from Legends of Tomorrow, even with its Jan. 21 outing.

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