Nets provided sustained, commercial-free coverage

NEW YORK — Fox News Channel and NBC News were the big winners in their coverage of President Bush’s State of the Union address, while ABC News fell to last place on the broadcast side in an uncharacteristic loss.

Both broadcast and cable news nets provided sustained, commercial-free coverage of the president’s speech, which aired Tuesday from 9-10:05 p.m. ET.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 5.2 million viewers during the speech, a whopping 124% advantage over CNN, which averaged 2.3 million. MSNBC averaged 689,000 viewers. Fox News also won the key news demo of adults 25-54 for the night.

On the broadcast side, NBC averaged 9.6 million viewers during Bush’s speech, while CBS News came in second, averaging 8.6 million.

The Fox broadcasting net, which carried a Fox News’ special anchored by Shepard Smith, averaged 8.3 million viewers. In an upset, Fox beat out ABC, which averaged 8.2 million during Bush’s address.

Except in West Coast markets, Fox had a powerful lead-in — the premiere of “American Idol.”

On the broadcast side, Nielsen won’t provide ratings for post-speech analysis and the Democratic response until next week.

The cable news nets provided blanket coverage of Monday’s Iowa Caucuses, with Fox News the winner. According to Nielsen, Fox News averaged 1.5 million viewers in primetime; CNN averaged 1.3 million; MSNBC, 585,000.

CNN’s “Larry King Live” did win its 9 p.m. ET timeslot, averaging 1.6 million viewers, while Fox averaged 1.4 million during the same hour, according to Nielsen. Fox News, however, won the same timeslot in adults 25-54, averaging 575,000 viewers. CNN averaged 544,000 adults 25-54.

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