New York — An estimated 26.9 million people watched President Joe Biden’s first address to Congress across 16 television networks, the smallest audience for the yearly presidential speech since at least 1993.
The previous low was the 31.3 million who watched President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address in 2016, the Nielsen company said on Thursday. Nielsen didn’t have measurements before 1993.
Biden’s audience compares to the 37.2 million viewers former President Donald Trump had for his State of the Union address last year. Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress shortly after taking office in 2017 was seen by 47.7 million people.
A long-term decline in television ratings has accelerated during the pandemic, due to cord-cutting and other factors. Biden’s ratings likely suffered because his speech was in late April, when viewership levels in general are lower than the typical midwinter time for these presidential addresses.
His physical audience in Congress was also much smaller than normal due to coronavirus restrictions.
The clearest difference from 2020 is the 2.9 million viewers for Biden on Fox News Channel, sharply down from the 11.5 million who watched Trump speak on that network in 2020, Nielsen said.
Obama had 52.4 million viewers for his first address to Congress in 2009.
ABC, with 4.03 million viewers, had the largest audience for Biden on Wednesday night. MSNBC had 3.94 million, NBC had 3.54 million, CBS had 3.37 million, CNN had 3.18 million and Fox broadcast had 1.63 million, Nielsen said.
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