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State of the Union Ratings Lower: Fox News Tops Cable Overall, CNN Leads in Demo

Viewership of the State of the Union address continues to wane, with early numbers suggesting perhaps the lowest tune-in for the annual event in 15 years.

Nielsen won’t issue cume numbers until later Wednesday or Thursday, but Fox News (3.471 million), CNN (2.557 million) and MSNBC (1.995 million) combined to draw a little over 8 million viewers from 9 to 10:15 p.m. ET, according to preliminary estimates. This is down from 9.1 million last year and 10.35 million in 2013.

CNN was the only one of of the three networks to rise vs. last year, bouncing back from what turned out to be its smallest SOTU tune-in in nine years.

In adults 25-54, CNN led the way with 1.021 million during the address — up a big 40% from last year. It was followed by Fox News (834,168), which had its smallest demo audience since 2000, and MSNBC (473,460), which had its smallest in eight years.

For the 9-11 p.m. ET period, which includes post-address coverage, Fox News drew 3.485 million viewers and 827,819 in the demo, while CNN averaged 2.375 million and a first-place 982,428 in the demo. MSNBC drew about 2 million overall, including about 494,000 in the demo.

A special live edition of “The Kelly File” on FNC ruled the 11 o’clock hour in both total viewers (2.40 million) and the demo (532,000). CNN ran second (1.13 million, including 459,000 in 25-54) and MSNBC third (995,000, including 293,000 in 25-54).

Nielsen will once again sustain ratings for the commercial-free address, meaning they won’t be counted in the broadcast networks’ averages. CBS led among the broadcasters with 7.57 million viewers and a 1.9 rating among adults 25-54, according to preliminary nationals.

Last year’s address drew about 33.3 million viewers across 14 broadcast and cable stations, according to Nielsen, continuing a trend of lower viewership for each of President Obama’s addresses since his first in 2009 drew a big 52.4 million.

In social media on Tuesday, Nielsen reported that a U.S. audience on Twitter of 9.7 million people (up 11% from last year) saw one or more of the 2.6 million Tweets sent about the State of The Union.” Twitter activity spiked toward the end of the television event at 10:08 p.m. ET, when 44,000 Tweets were sent in one minute following the President’s reference to the fact that he has no more campaigns to run, having “won both of them.”

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