TV Ratings: Trump's First SOTU Dips From 2017 (and Obama) With 45.6 Million Viewers

Based on broadcast and cable news, the address falls roughly 5 percent from the comparable one last year.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union on Tuesday night, his second formal address since taking office, and the presidential spiel naturally dominated evening ratings — though it was off some from his first go in the House chamber in 2017.

Updated stats from Nielsen have the address pulling 45.6 million viewers across all carrying networks. That's off five percent from the comparable speech a year ago.

Earlier returns, based on Nielsen's 56 metered markets, had the hour-plus speech pulling a combined 14.8 overnight rating among households on the broadcast networks. Compared to the same stats for the same networks a year ago, that was down roughly 9 percent from his 2017 speech. (Trump's 2017 address pulled a combined 16 overnight rating among metered market households, ultimately earning 48 million viewers with all networks tallied.)

Fox News Channel unsurprisingly led with coverage of the Republican president. It's average 11.5 million viewers bested any previous cable haul for a SOTU and even topped its own coverage of the 2017 address. Networks carrying the address, and tallied by PBS, include ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Estrella, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, FOX Business, FOX News, MSNBC and PBS.

Trump's speech ran longer than usual for a SOTU, an hour and twenty minutes. And, going off of these updated numbers, his speech will still fall shy of both his performance in 2017 and Barack Obama's first SOTU in office in 2010.

For a presidency, addresses tend to start high (of late, with an unofficial speech weeks into office) and steadily lose steam — with obvious exceptions in times of war or uncertainty. Obama kicked off the first of his eight addresses in the House chamber with 52.4 million viewers in 2009. That was followed by modest drop, in 2010, to 48 million viewers. Over the course of the Obama presidency, tune-in gradually declined roughly 20 million viewers to a low for his last address: 31.3 million in 2016.

This century's biggest State of the Union address audience was in 2003, when a huge percentage of the country tuned in to hear George W. Bush speak about mounting U.S. intervention in the Middle East. An average 62 million viewers watched, and a full-scale invasion of Iraq followed less than two months later.