State of the Union viewership falls to 31.7 million, a 15-year low

President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech with Vice President Joe Biden, left, and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) looking on Tuesday night.
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Television viewership for President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night fell to a 15-year low, according to numbers from Nielsen.

The 1-hour, 15-minute speech drew an average of 31.7 million viewers on broadcast and cable networks, the audience tracking firm said.

The combined figure is down about 5% from last year’s State of the Union address, which clocked in at 33.3 million viewers.

This year’s count, which does not include people who streamed the event online, was the lowest since President Clinton’s final State of the Union in 2000. That speech pulled in just under 31.5 million viewers.


Nielsen’s combined tally included networks ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Al Jazeera America, Azteca, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Galavision, MSNBC, MundoFox and Univision.

Fox News Channel topped cable news ratings for the speech with about 3.5 million viewers.

However, overall viewership for the network slipped from last year’s broadcast, which drew in about 4.7 million viewers.

CNN, which came in second overall, brought in roughly 2.5 million people overall, up from last year’s 2.1 million. But the network edged ahead of Fox News in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic with 1 million viewers to 934,168.

MSNBC’s audience dropped year-over-year to roughly 2 million viewers. In the key demo, 473,460 people tuned in during the address.

Among the broadcast networks, CBS’ coverage averaged 7.3 million viewers and was the second-most watched program of the night. The network benefited on the East Coast from the lead-in of “NCIS,” which was No. 1 overall with 11.8 million viewers.

Meanwhile, NBC’s State of the Union broadcast was up from last year with 5.3 million viewers. ABC pulled in 4.7 million viewers and Fox averaged 3 million viewers, up 5%.

Twitter reported that from the start of the president’s address through the conclusion of the official Republican response by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), over 2.6 million tweets were sent around the world related to "#SOTU.”

The most tweeted-about topics included community college, equal pay, climate change, tax reform and healthcare.

According to Nielsen, Twitter activity jumped toward the end of the coverage. At around 10:08 p.m. ET, 44,000 tweets were sent in one minute after the president said that he has no campaigns to run, having “won both of them.”

Staff writer Ryan Faughnder contributed to this post.

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