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Bush speech aud drops

Preliminary numbers show talk averaged roughly 43.4 mil viewers

One year after auds showed up in record numbers for an update on the then-impending war in Iraq, viewership for President Bush’s State of the Union address dropped sharply this time around — although more than 40 million still tuned in.

According to preliminary national numbers from Nielsen, President Bush’s address to the nation Tuesday night averaged roughly 43.4 million viewers on the eight broadcast and cable networks that carried it from 9-10:05 p.m. ET.

This number is down sharply from last year’s 62.1 million and also well below 2002, when 51.8 million watched the president’s first State of the Union speech following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It’s more in line with the 42.2 million viewers that President Clinton averaged with the address during his second term.

Reliable information on individual network performances wasn’t expected until today, but fast-affiliate data supplied by Nielsen indicate that NBC again led on the broadcast side.

Also Tuesday, it was another huge night for Fox’s “American Idol,” which drew an 11.9/31 in adults 18-49 and 27.2 million viewers for its second seg of the season, according to Nielsen prelims — only slightly below its boffo opening-night numbers on Monday.

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