President Donald Trump took some time out of primetime on January 8 to address the nation regarding his push for a border wall between the southern United States and Mexico, speaking from the Oval Office of the White House. The border wall has been a deeply divisive issue between politicians and the public alike, and there was a big question of whether people would want to tune in or try to tune the politics out.
Well, the ratings numbers for the presidential address (which was immediately followed by an address to the nation by Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer) are in, and it turns out that a lot of people wanted to tune in.
The presidential address and subsequent Democrat rebuttal aired from 9-9:30 p.m. ET on the major four networks as well as a number of cable news outlets. Between CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, the half hour was watched by nearly 40 million people.
CBS was the biggest winner with 8.09 million, Fox News came in second with numbers that could help it remain on top of cable in 2019 with 8.04 million. NBC came in third with 7.4 million, followed by ABC with 5.46 million, MSNBC (which has been on the rise) with 4.34 million, CNN with 3.57 million, and Fox with 2.96 million. The grand total is 39.77 million, according to numbers courtesy of Deadline.
Interestingly, Fox News scored higher ratings with the border wall speech than it did when Fox News personality Sean Hannity scored his own interview with the president back in 2018.
Donald Trump's border wall address to the nation was his first primetime Oval Office speech to the American people, and it came only weeks before his second State of the Union speech, which will air on January 29. His first State of the Union attracted 40.54 million viewers total from CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. The total bumped up to 45.6 million after numbers from Univision, Telemundo, PBS, and Fox Business were taken into account.
The 2018 SOTU numbers were themselves themselves were down 4.5% from his first address to Congress back in 2017. All things considered, I'm not surprised that the ratings for the border wall Oval Office address were down from his 2018 State of the Union. SOTU speeches are scheduled well in advance, while all of the listed networks did not confirm that they would air the relatively last-minute speech until the day before it was set to take place.
Some who may have been interested in watching may not have actually known it was happening. Would the ratings have been higher if Donald Trump and/or his staff given more advance notice?
At the same time, it's possible that some of those who did tune in to the presidential address weren't actually on their couches to hear what Trump and then the Democrats had to say. Some viewers may have been folks who simply didn't turn off their TVs after watching a show at 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., or even people who turned on their TVs at 9 p.m. ET, expecting to watch a show that wound up delayed due to the address.
Admittedly, even if some of the ratings do result from people who only wanted to watch regular programming that was changed due to Trump's address, the numbers almost certainly wouldn't be very significant. Still, it's worth bearing in mind that there are a lot of variables when it comes to ratings for events such as this. Trump is probably pleased.
The State of the Union for 2019 airs on January 29. If you're in the market for some escapism on the small screen, check out our midseason TV premiere schedule for plenty of options.