President Biden delivered a feisty State of the Union address on Tuesday punctuated by several ad-libbed exchanges with Republican hecklers, an unusual dose of improv for an annual broadcast that usually runs strictly to script.
According to Nielsen, though, fewer Americans than last year tuned in to see it.
About 27.3 million people watched Mr. Biden’s speech live on television, Nielsen said on Wednesday, the lowest rating for a presidential address to Congress since Mr. Biden’s first go-round in April 2021. Tuesday’s audience fell by 29 percent from Mr. Biden’s previous State of the Union, which drew about 38.2 million viewers.
CNN, with 2.4 million viewers, suffered the biggest decline compared with a year ago, losing about half of its audience from 2022. That year, CNN’s viewership topped that of NBC and MSNBC. On Tuesday, CNN was the lowest-rated of the major networks, except for Fox’s broadcast affiliates.
But CNN did beat its rival MSNBC among 25- to 54-year-old viewers, a coveted demographic that matters most to advertisers.
Fox News attracted the night’s biggest viewership, with 4.7 million watchers; it was the highest-rated TV network for last year’s State of the Union, as well. ABC, with 4.4 million viewers on Tuesday, took in the biggest ratings of the Big Three broadcast networks; ABC also beat every cable and broadcast network in the coveted 25-54 age demographic.
The figures released by Nielsen on Wednesday did not include many Americans who watched Mr. Biden’s address via online streaming channels, an increasingly common method for viewers to tune in for major news events.
Nielsen, the leading ratings agency, said that nearly 75 percent of Tuesday’s TV viewership consisted of adults 55 and older.
The dip in viewership may reflect a broader fatigue among Americans who are paying less attention to political news. Audiences for CNN and MSNBC programs are down across the board compared with a year ago, and the overall television audience for last November’s election night was the smallest viewership for a midterm year since 2014.