Due to the nature of live programming the ratings for  for the president’s State of The Union address are approximate and subject to significant revisions in the final numbers. See below for more information on these Fast Affiliate Ratings.


FOX easily won the night with an hour of American Idol at 8pm on a night where outside of Idol, the broadcast schedule was dominated by President Obama’s State of the Union address and repeats.

Numbers for the cable news outlets won’t be available until this afternoon, and even for the broadcast networks we’ll have to wait for the finals to see how many people watched the address since Obama spoke for more than an hour (but less than 90 minutes), plus the very approximate nature of live events.  After Obama’s address was the Republican response and analysis.

But in the 9p-10p hour across ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, the address averaged 30.69 million viewers and a 9.1/25 rating share with adults 18-49.  Update: across the broadcast and cable networks airing the address it averaged  48,009,595 viewers.

FOX led the coverage of the State of the Union, which is atypical (Fox News Channel often outperforms the broadcast network’s coverage of presidential addresses), but how much of that is due to Idol plus the numbers being even a little bit more screwed up  than they normally would because American Idol “aired out of pattern” in the Mountain time zone.

American Idol was up slightly (1%) versus Tuesday night, but down about 7 percent from a week ago with adults 18-49, and down about 10 percent from the same night last year.  FOX expects last night’s results to improve a bit in the final numbers due to the out of pattern airing in the Mountain time zone.  Update: in the final numbers American Idol rose to a 9.5/26 rating/share with adults 18-49.

In Late-Night Local People Meters Wednesday night:

  • Conan O’Brien (1.0/4 in 18-49 in local people meters with an encore telecast) outscored CBS’s LATE SHOW (0.7/3 with an encore telecast) in Nielsen’s 25 local markets with People Meters.
  • At 12:35 a.m., Jimmy Fallon (0.5/3 in 18-49 in local people meters with an encore telecast) topped CBS’s first-run LATE LATE SHOW (0.4/2).

Below the details for last night are the ratings details for Obama’s previous addresses and primetime press conferences.


Time Net Show 18-49 Rating/Shr Viewers (Millons)
8:00 FOX American Idol 9.1/25 24.75
ABC Modern Family (R) 1.7/5 5.72
CBS New Adventures of Old Christine (R) 1.4/4 5.14
NBC Mercy (R) 1.1/3 4.15
CW Gossip Girl (R) 0.3/1 0.80
8:30 ABC The Middle  (R) 1.6/4 5.32
CBS Gary Unmarried (R) 1.4/4 4.81
9:00 FOX State of the Union Address 3.6/10 9.74
ABC State of the Union Address 2.2/6 7.64
NBC State of the Union Address 1.8/5 7.15
CBS State of the Union Address 1.5/4 6.16
CW Life Unexpected (R) 0.6/2 1.43
10:00 FOX State of the Union Coverage 3.2/8 8.713
ABC State of the Union Coverage 2.1/6 7.18
NBC State of the Union Coverage 2.0/5 7.23
CBS State of the Union Coverage 1.6/4 6.10
10:30 FOX Analysis/Various 2.0/6 5.85
NBC Analysis/The Office (R) 1.3/4 4.41
ABC Analysis/Cougar Town (R) 1.1/3 4.09
CBS Analysis/Two and a Half Men (R) 1.0/3 4.23

Here are some past results  for President Obama’s TV appearances — the results below are final numbers, factoring in all the networks.   For comparitive  purposes of the preliminary numbers on December 1st address below averaged 30.84 million on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX.  But that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison because the December 1 address was only 30 minutes.   The address on 9/9 was one hour, but it was only carried on 3 of the broadcast networks, those three networks accounted for 26 million viewers.

Tuesday December 1, 2009 Combined Household Rating Combined Household Share Number of Households Number of Persons
ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Univision, Telemundo, CNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel and MSNBC 25.9 44 29,806,000 40,767,134
Source: The Nielsen Company

Here are ratings for President Obama’s previous prime time speeches and press conferences this year:

Subject Date Number of Networks Household Rating Household Share Number of Households Number of Persons
Address to a Joint Session of Congress: Health Care Reform^ 09/09/09 11 20.6 35 23,607,629 32,111,596
Health Care Reform^^ 07/22/09 11 16.3 32 18,674,361 24,682,519
100th Day in Office^^ 04/29/09 10 18.8 27 21,408,000 28,811,000
Economic Recovery^^ 03/24/09 11 25.9 45 29,799,000 40,354,000
Address to a Joint Session of Congress: Health Care Reform^ 02/24/09 10 32.5 49 37,185,000 52,373,000
Stimulus Plan^^ 02/09/09 8 30.8 47 35,311,433 49,455,000
Source: The Nielsen Company


^^Press Conference

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2010 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

You can see TV ratings from other recent Overnight ratings reports here.


Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings, including demographics, are available at approximately 11 AM (ET) the day after telecast, and are released to subscribing customers daily. These data, from the National People Meter sample, are strictly time-period information, based on the normal broadcast network feed, and include all programming on the affiliated stations, sometimes including network programming, sometimes not. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. For example, with a World Series game, Fast Affiliate Ratings would include whatever aired from 8-11PM on affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone, following the live football game, but not game coverage that begins at 5PM PT. The same would be true of Presidential debates as well as live award shows and breaking news reports.

Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.

Share (of Audience): The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. (See also, Rating, which represents tuning or viewing as a percent of the entire population being measured.)

Time Shifted Viewing – Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live+Same Day (Live+SD) and Live+7 Day. Time shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs which are currently in approximately 24.4% of all U.S. TV households. Live+Same Day (Live+SD) include viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3:00AM local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live+7 Day ratings include incremental viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

For more information see Numbers 101.

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