TV Ratings: Trump Speech, Democratic Response Draws 40 Million-Plus Viewers

Trump_Addresses the Nation - Getty - H 2019
Carlos Barria-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's televised Oval Office address on Tuesday, and the Democratic response to it, drew a sizable audience. 

Just over 40 million people watched the speech, along with a rebuttal from Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, from 9-9:30 p.m. ET on the Big Four broadcast networks and the three biggest cable news channels. CBS had the largest share of that audience with 8.09 million viewers — thanks in part to lead-in NCIS averaging better than 12 million viewers — just ahead of the 8.04 million for Fox News. 

NBC drew 7.4 million viewers, ABC 5.8 million, MSNBC 4.24 million, CNN 3.57 million and the Fox broadcast network 2.94 million. Univision's Spanish-language coverage added another 1.7 million viewers to bring the total to 41.7 million.

NBC was the leader in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 with 2.75 million viewers in that age range. Fox News was second with 1.87 million in the demo, followed by ABC, 1.79 million; CBS, 1.71 million; CNN, 1.39 million; Fox broadcast, 1.3 million; and MSNBC, 811,000.

ABC and Fox wrapped up their coverage after 20 minutes and NBC after 25 minutes. CBS aired a full half-hour. On the cable news channels, only MSNBC broke out the presidential address as special coverage; CNN and Fox News folded it into their regular 9 p.m. shows, Cuomo Prime Time and Hannity, respectively.

In preliminary numbers, the quarter hour (9-9:15 p.m. ET) containing the president's speech drew a combined 28.1 household rating in metered markets on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, Fox News and NBC. The following 15 minutes, including analysis and the Pelosi-Schumer rebuttal, averaged a 29.3 across those same networks, a bump of about 4 percent.

The news coverage scrambled regular primetime programming. The season premiere of Ellen's Game of Games on NBC led regular programming in adults 18-49 with a 1.5, off a fair amount from its 2.0 average last season. Following a partial Game of Games rerun after the speech, New Amsterdam returned with a 1.0, down slightly from its last airing in late November.

ABC's The Conners (1.4) returned steady, and The Kids Are Alright ticked up to 1.0. The network pushed the rest of its lineup back to accommodate the news coverage, with Black-ish earning a 0.8, Splitting Up Together a 0.7 and The Rookie a 0.6.

CBS' NCIS scored a 1.2 in the demo, off 0.1 from its last episode in December; reruns took up the rest of the evening.

Fox's Lethal Weapon held steady at 0.7, while The Gifted rose a little bit to 0.6.

Jan. 9, 2:08 p.m. Updated with final ratings numbers.