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Trump’s First Address to Congress Draws Smaller Audience Than Obama’s First Address

UPDATED: President Donald Trump delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening, and while the pundit class may be heaping praise on the performance, the hourlong address failed to draw the same kind of audience as his predecessor did in his first such outing.

According to Nielsen’s final official tally, Trump’s speech drew 47.74 million viewers from approximately 9 to 10:15 p.m. across 11 networks. Those 11 networks counted by Nielsen were ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision, PBS, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NBC Universo.

President Obama’s first address pulled in an audience of 52.37 million people across the four broadcast networks, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, and Univision — a difference of about 9%. The audience for President George W. Bush’s first address, at 39.79 million, was overshadowed by the State of the Union Address he delivered in 2003, which brought in 62.06 million viewers.

While many outlets streamed Trump’s speech, live streaming tends to be additive to big live events like this, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the Grammys — average viewership is generally not more than a couple percent (at most) of the TV audience. Outlets that live stream these events seldom release viewership figures that are analogous to TV ratings, choosing instead to focus on number of unique visitors or number of streams started. TV ratings measure the average minute audience — the average number of people watching each minute of a program.

Earlier numbers below:

Across nine networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Univision, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and Fox Business — Trump’s speech drew an average audience of 46.82 million from 9:15 to 10:15 p.m. in Nielsen’s still-not-quite-final numbers.

Fox News, unsurprisingly, drew the biggest audience for Trump’s speech, with 10.77 million viewers. NBC came in second with 9.14 million, followed by CBS (7.16 million), ABC (6.07 million), CNN (3.94 million), Univision (3.4 million), Fox broadcast (3.08 million), MSNBC (2.68 million), and Fox Business Network (593,000).

Fox News bested its cable news competition by quite a bit in their target demographic of 25-54, with 2.78 million viewers in that age range, though of all the networks airing the address, NBC had the most viewers in that demo (3.29 million).

Trump’s speech was praised by some as an example that the president can stay on-message for at least an hour. “The speech may have given Trump a reset after a tumultuous start, but that could quickly dissipate in another sensational turn of the news cycle. If the first month of his presidency is any measure, that is more likely than not. As he gave the broad outlines of some of his policy priorities, Trump may have softened the rhetoric, but the fault lines on issues like immigration, healthcare, and diversity don’t just fall away in the moment,” Variety‘s Ted Johnson wrote in his live blog.

Preliminary numbers below:

In Nielsen’s fast national ratings, the speech drew an average audience of 23 million on the four English-language broadcast networks that carried the speech nationally. NBC, thanks to its lead-in of “The Voice,” pulled in the biggest audience of the broadcasters with an average audience of 8.27 million viewers from 9 to 10:30 p.m, with a 2.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic. CBS had 6.59 million tune in, with a 1.0 in the demo. ABC had 5.14 million and a 1.2 rating in the demo. Fox (the broadcasting channel, not Fox News) drew 3 million and a 0.9 in the demo. (The CW affiliates in New York and Indianapolis carried the speech, but nationally a “Riverdale” rerun played in the 9 p.m. hour.)

If you add in Univision, which also carried the speech and garnered an average audience of 2.8 million and a demo rating of 1.1, Trump’s broadcast total increased to a preliminary 25.8 million.

Across seven networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — Trump’s speech notched a 27.8 household rating in Nielsen’s metered market overnights. Across these same networks, President Obama’s first address of a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009, drew an overnight household rating of 33.4, a difference of about 17%.

Fox News drew the biggest household rating of these networks, with a 6.4. It was followed by NBC (5.5), CBS (4.6), ABC (4.0), CNN (3.0), Fox Broadcasting (2.3), and MSNBC (2.0).

Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” went live so that Colbert could address the speech, and was rewarded in the overnight ratings with another win over Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” and Jimmy Kimmel’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” drawing a 2.7 household rating to a 2.2 for the “Tonight Show” and a 1.9 for Kimmel.

Before the speech: “The Voice” on NBC drew a 2.6 rating in the 18-49 demographic and an average audience of 11.28 million. ABC offered new episodes of “Fresh Off the Boat” and “The Real O’Neals,” which brought in a 1.2 and 1.1, respectively, in the demo, and audiences of 4.56 million and 3.58 million. “New Girl” on Fox weighed in with a 0.9 and 2.24 million viewers, followed by “The Mick” with a 0.9 and 2.49 million viewers. The CW had a new “The Flash” that brought in a 1.1 in the demo and 2.79 million viewers.

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