Trump State of the Union Speech Attracts Fewer Viewers Than Last Year


(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address attracted a much smaller TV audience than a year ago, a sign of viewer fatigue during an especially hectic political season.

Fewer than 34 million people tuned in to the speech on the seven major broadcast and cable networks, according to estimates by Nielsen. Last year, roughly 42 million people saw Trump’s speech on those channels. Including all the networks, the number topped 37 million, Nielsen said.

Trump’s address featured several surprises, including a reunion between a deployed soldier and his family, and Melania Trump draping the Presidential Medal of Freedom around conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. There also was more overt tension: The president turned his back on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s outstretched hand as he assumed the dais, and later she ripped her copy of his speech in two after he concluded the remarks.

Trump State of the Union Speech Attracts Fewer Viewers Than Last Year

Fox News was the only channel among the seven to post a viewership increase from last year, according to Nielsen ratings shared by the network. It saw 2% more viewers compared with the speech in 2019. AT&T Inc.’s CNN lost 20% of its viewers, and Comcast Corp.’s MSNBC shed 41%.

NBC, CBS and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC all saw audiences that were about 30% smaller than last year. The viewership on Fox Corp.’s broadcast network fell 10%.

Fox News topped all the networks, drawing 11.5 million viewers. NBC had the largest audience among the broadcast channels, but drew only 4.8 million viewers, compared with 7.1 million in 2019.

This year’s speech may have generated less excitement due to the sheer number of other major political events taking place just before it. The Iowa caucus was Monday, and that followed several days of impeachment hearings.

Even with lower ratings, the speech generated buzz online. It spawned 14.1 million interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on Tuesday, Nielsen said. That made it the “most social” telecast of the day.

The activity peaked at 10:31 p.m. local time, when people were reacting to Pelosi ripping up Trump’s speech.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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