Fox News Dominates Cable Ratings for State of the Union Address

It beats combined viewership of MSNBC, CNN; overall tune-in across broadcast, cable down 12% from last year to 33.3 million

State of the Union Ratings
Larry Downing-Pool/Getty Images

Fox News flexed its muscles as the most popular cable news outlet Tuesday night, as its coverage of the State of the Union address out-drew the combined tune-in of rivals CNN and MSNBC. It was also the only one to be up vs. last year’s speech.

Overall, meanwhile, Nielsen estimates that an average audience of 33.3 million watched the SOTU on 14 broadcast and cable stations, including a tape-delayed airing on Univision. This is down 12% from last year’s 37.8 million and the smallest since President Clinton’s last address, in 2000 (31.5 million).

According to Nielsen estimates for roughly 9:14-10:20 p.m. ET, Fox News Channel averaged 4,718,853 viewers — more than double MSNBC (2,292,169) and CNN (2,081,431). FNC held a sizable advantage in the key news demo of adults 25-54 as well (1,197,554), with CNN ranking second by this measure (762,450) and MSNBC third (752,054).

From 9 to 11 p.m., FNC, whose coverage was anchored by Bret Baier, averaged 4.51 million viewers, followed by 2.17 million for MSNBC and 1.88 million for CNN.

It was a much tighter race a year ago, with Fox News only narrowly leading CNN in total viewers and finishing third in adults 25-54. (CNN’s performance a year ago may have been boosted by its breaking news coverage reporting on the manhunt of Christopher Dorner in the California mountains before and after the president’s speech.)

Compared to the 2013 State of the Union address, held in February, Fox News was up 28% in total viewers (from 3.68 million) and 25% in adults 25-54 (from 956,000), while CNN was down more than 40% in both categories and MSNBC was off by more than 20 in both.

This was CNN’s least-watched SOTU since 2005 in both total viewers and the 25-54 demo, and it was MSNBC’s lowest since 2008.

On the broadcast side, CBS led in average audience for the SOTU address, while NBC was tops in key demos. For the post-address analysis, NBC led with 6.702 million viewers (and a 2.1/5 in adults 25-54) while CBS drew 6.558 million (and a 1.7/4 in 25-54) and ABC bagged 5.565 million (and a 1.7/4 in 25-54).