Opinion: Obama’s State of the Union manages to hold Americans’ attention despite its length


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The television ratings for President Obama‘s State of the Union addresses are in, and they look pretty comparable to previous speeches.

We can’t yet accurately benchmark the numbers for Wednesday night’s address against the ones from his Dec. 1 speech about Afghanistan. Ratings for the news networks haven’t been reported yet.


Wednesday’s speech drew an average of 30.69 million viewers between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern among the major networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, according to Nielsen.

Obama’s speech on Afghanistan snagged 40.77 million viewers, with 30.84 million tuning in on the major networks. Of course, even that’s not a good point of comparison because the Afghanistan speech was only 30 minutes long, versus Wednesday’s State of the Union, which exceeded an hour.

Fox touted the highest viewership on Wednesday with 9.74 million. According to a Public Policy Polling survey, Fox News Channel ranked as the most trusted source for TV news and the only network drawing more people saying they trusted the station than distrusted it.

ABC came in second in those ratings Wednesday with 7.64 million. NBC was in third with 7.15 million. And CBS trailed with 6.16 million -- all ratings from Nielsen.

Of course, none could compare to what Fox was showing the hour before Obama’s address. ‘American Idol’ beat out the top three networks’ combined ratings for the State of the Union -- but CBS inevitably puts them a few million over the pop-music reality show.

[Corrected, 3:28 p.m.: These numbers are the Fast Affiliate ratings, which do not take West Coast viewers of the State of the Union into account. In aggregate, 48 million people watched Obama’s speech, according to Nielsen.]


-- Mark Milian

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