6:56am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: Trump's Congress Address Pulls 48 Million Viewers, Down From Comparable Obama Speech
President Donald Trump made his first big televised appearance from the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday night, addressing a joint session of Congress and blanketing the Big Four and the cable news networks for more than an hour.
The event predictably topped the night's few other telecasts, grossing just more than 48 million viewers on 11 networks airing coverage between 9 and 10:15 p.m. ET. On par with early metered market stats, a cumulative 27.8 overnight rating among households, it's still off from President Barack Obama's first joint sessions meeting — or even his first State of the Union. Compared to Obama's first address in 2009, Trump's pull is down by 8 percent. Fox News, which the Trump audience has show itself to be especially fond of, led coverage on cable and broadcast with 10.8 million viewers during the speech — while NBC News topped among the Big Four with 9.1 million viewers.
Never dubbed a State of the Union for a first-year, first-term president, the address to the joint sessions of congress is nevertheless a huge event — often a bigger one than subsequent SOTUs. President Barack Obama averaged 52.4 million viewers (initially a 33.4 overnight rating) across networks when he spoke in 2009, when the country was suffering from a recession. His subsequent addresses never reached that height.
Speeches of this sort tend to draw the biggest crowd in times of uncertainty, which is why President George W. Bush peaked in early 2003, on the eve of the Iraq War, with 62 million viewers. Like Obama, Bill Clinton peaked with his joint session — pulling 66,900,000 in 1993, an audience he never came close to duplicating even when embroiled in scandal.
Prior to Tuesday, Trump's biggest TV spectacle in office was his Jan. 19 inauguration. The Apprentice producer's tally of not-quite 31 million viewers fell far short of Obama's first inauguration in 2009, but it did rank as the second-most-watched since Ronald Reagan took office. Obama's final State of the Union attracted 31.3 million viewers, the lowest of his presidency. His first State of the Union, in 2010, pulled more than 48 million viewers.