News conference averaged 49 million viewers

President Obama’s first primetime news conference averaged 49.5 million viewers Monday on eight combined broadcast and cable networks, according to estimates from Nielsen Media Research.

While a big number by today’s standards, the 49.5 million pales in comparison to the 64.3 million that watched President Clinton in his first-month press conference in February 1993, or the 64.8 million viewers for President Bush’s press conference on Oct. 11, 2001 — one month following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It’s worth noting, though, that today’s audience is much more splintered, with the average home receiving 118 channels today, according to Nielsen. By comparison, the average viewer in 1993 had just 40 channels to choose from, while that number rose to 61 channels in 2000.

The Obama speech disrupted viewing patterns and schedules at the broadcast networks, with NBC’s “Chuck,” CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” Fox’s “House” and ABC’s “True Beauty” all preempted on the night.

CBS and ABC were neck and neck for the night’s lead among young adults, with the Eye led by “Two and a Half Men” (4.8/11 in 18-49, 15.00 million viewers overall) and series-best scores for sophomore comedy “The Big Bang Theory” (4.5/10 in 18-49, 12.72 million viewers overall), which aired 9:30 due to the president’s news conference. “CSI: Miami” closed out the night for CBS (4.0/10 in 18-49, 13.81 million viewers overall).

At ABC, “The Bachelor” continues to hit new highs seemingly every week (4.2/10 in 18-49, 11.59 million viewers overall), winning the 10 o’clock hour among young adults. Excluding finales, this was the best performance for the veteran franchise in adults 18-49 since February 2006, and its strongest in total viewers since May 2004.

NBC’s “Heroes” (3.6/8 in 18-49, 7.9 million viewers overall) was down some from its return to action last week, as was 10 o’clock drama “Medium” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 7.89 million viewers overall).

Fox’s only program on the night, “24,” was also down week to week (3.4/8 in 18-49, 10.61 million viewers overall).

Standout cable programs on the night included USA’s “WWE Raw” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.24 million viewers overall), TNT’s “The Closer” (1.3/3 in 18-49, 5.44 million viewers overall), and ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 3.51 million viewers overall).

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