UPDATED: President Donald Trump’s press conference announcing his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat — Neil Gorsuch, in case you somehow missed the news — caused chaos in the Nielsen ratings for Tuesday night’s 8 o’clock hour.
Unlike President Barack Obama’s first primetime news conference, which ran from 8 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2009, and was a more general address to the American public, this press conference lasted just 17 minutes, since its aim was merely to reveal the Gorsuch pick. Obama’s hourlong news conference brought in 49.5 million viewers across ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Univision, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.
All told, the reality-show-esque unveiling of the President’s SCOTUS pick pulled in 32.42 million viewers across CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC, per Nielsen’s final ratings released Wednesday afternoon. CBS accounted for 7.97 million; NBC for 5.91 million; ABC for 5.18 million; Fox for 2.2 million; Fox News for 7.56 million; CNN for 2.03 million; and MSNBC for 1.57 million.
Nielsen’s preliminary numbers, released Wednesday morning, from 8-8:30 p.m. on four of the five broadcasters should be taken with a glacier-sized grain of salt, since they were mixed in with those networks’ other programming.
In that 8 to 8:30 p.m. timeframe, in those preliminary numbers, NBC led in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic with a 1.2 rating and 5.78 million viewers overall; its coverage was followed by an already-in-progress repeat of (yes, really) reality series “The Wall.” CBS nabbed the most total viewers, with 7.42 million, and a 1.0 rating in the demo; it joined a “2 Broke Girls” repeat. ABC’s coverage was adjoined by a repeat of “The Middle” and brought in a 0.9 in the demo and 4.69 million viewers. Fox’s coverage drew a 0.6 in the demo and 2.07 million viewers, joining an in-progress “New Girl” repeat.
NBC, Fox, and CBS went new after the dust had settled. On NBC, “The Wall” stood on its own with a 1.4 in the demo and 5.55 million viewers. (“This Is Us” took the week off.) On CBS, the 2017 edition of “Super Bowl Greatest Commercials” weighed in with a 0.9 in the demo and 6.41 million viewers. A new episode of Fox’s “The Mick” at 8:30 drew a slightly-up 1.1 in the demo and 2.95 million viewers, while “Bones” stayed steady with a 0.9 and 3.74 million viewers. Not helped by the chaos and repeats, ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” at 10 brought in a low 0.6 in the demo and 2.17 million viewers.
On The CW, which didn’t carry the press conference, “The Flash” ticked up slightly from last week to a 1.1 in the demo and 3.04 million viewers. “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” also rose to a 0.7 and 1.8 million viewers.
Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” right after the SCOTUS presser, brought in a big average audience of 6.76 million and 1.24 million viewers in the cable news target demo of 25-54.
As a reminder, many of scripted series will see lifts of 50% or more once viewing within three and seven days is counted. However, most of those lifts won’t translate to the ratings networks guarantee advertisers.